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ASTOUNDING 



SCIENCE-FICTION 



Contents for September, 1942, Vol. XXX, No. 1 

John W. Campbell, Jr., Editor, Catherine Tarrant, Asst. Editor 



Novelettes 

THE BARRIER Anthony Boucher . 9 

If time travel is, or ever is to bo possible — why haven’t time- 
travelers appeared now? A famous detective-story author has 
ferreted out a solution that makes a sound and intriguing sug- 
gestion — 

NERVES Lester del Rey . . . 54 

Nerves and a wild, uncontrollable atomic furnace don’t blend well 
— unless they’re steel-wire, ice-cold nerves that eftin stand the ten- 
sion of wondering whether it’s six hours or ten till the map 
blows up — 

WITH FLAMING SWORDS Cleve Cartmill . . 109 

They were self-designated Saints — Saints by reason of a freak 
a strange weapon brought about. But no Saints in their way of 
governing the world — 

Short Stories 

THE TWONKY Lewis Padgett ... 34 

Things aren’t always what they seem — particularly when the ra- 
dio is actually a Twonky, and starts washing dishes and censor- 
^ ing reading habits — 

PRIDE Malcolm Jameson . 92 

Old Tom was a robot — and couldn’t hope for immaterial immor- 
tality, or even that he’d wear forever. But he had his pride of 
existence, and an answer to the problem — 

STARVATION Fredric Brown ... 100 

He was the mightiest fighter that ever lived, the giant, irresisti- 
ble Tyrant-lizard King. All feared him, all ran from him— on 
swift, elusive little mammalian feet. 

Article 

DEATH UNDER THE SEA Willy Ley ... . 44 

Companion to “Bombing Is a Fine Art,” this article describes 
the weapons that lurk beneath the seas, or run silent, invisible, 
to seek their prey — 



Readers' Departments 

THE EDITOR'S PAGE 6 

THE ANALYTICAL LABORATORY 90 

An Analysis of Readers’ Opinions. 

IN TIMES TO COME . 102 



Department of Prophecy and Future Issues. 



Concerning Purely Personal Preferences. 



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WEAPONS AND WAR 



During war time, the adage “Knowledge is 
power” takes on a strictly literal meaning ; knowl- 
edge becomes the basis of the power-politics which 
war constitutes. It’s perfectly true that, in a 
world run by creatures with about one one- 
thousandth of a geological second separating them 
from the pure animal way of life, all international 
politics is based on war strength. But that war 
strength gets pushed more in the background in 
the breathing spells between direct tests, and in 
that period free interchange of knowledge pro- 
ceeds. 

The brakes were fully applied to that inter- 
change of scientific knowledge only about the mid- 
dle of 1940. Of course, as early as 1934 or 1935 the 
German laboratories had gone under military se- 
crecy control about one hundred percent, releasing 
information only as it appeared of no great mili- 
tary value, or in return for secrets that seemed 
more valuable. But American laboratories in gen- 
eral were still open. The university and govern- 
ment laboratories working on industrial problems 
gave out information freely, except in the few 
cases where the work was undertaken with army 
or navy ends directly .in view. Industrial labora- 
tories were closed simply against competitors in 
industry; where Company A made a discovery that 
was useful only if they could take advantage of 
another discovery made by B, Incorporated, a 
quid pro quo exchange of data was made — and 
that, quite naturally, on an industrial, not a 
ferociously nationalistic basiB. In 1934 there were 
loud grumblings about war merchants and war- 
minded industrialists who sought to bring on wars 
to bring them fat profits. Any deals made in those 
days that showed signs of war-minded inclinations 
would have been pounced on and denounced from 
the housetops. 

We recognize today the futility of appeasement, 
of treating truly war-minded beings like Nazis as 
though they were human beings, people whose 
minds worked like ours. Industrial laboratories, 
like the rest of us, made the mistake of thinking 
they were a little queer, but fundamentally or- 
dinary, reasonable human beings. 

So, until 1940, nearly all the science of the 
democracies was open to the world. 

Two years only have passed since the full se- 
crecy of knowledge came into effect. The rate of 
progress of knowledge from the laboratory ap- 
paratus to the militarily useful production machine 
has been enormously increased by the pressure of 
need. All available scientists have been thrown 
into the work of converting known, basic science 



into usable devices. The thousands of workers 
who were, two or three years ago, investigating 
for new basic knowledge have to considerable de- 
gree dropped that task. It’s usually fifteen to 
twenty years between basic discovery and useful 
mechanism. There’s enough unapplied basic 
science to be put to work now to keep all available 
technicians busy for the duration of the war. 
Most of the progress in basic science must be 
left in suspension. 

In many ways, application of scientific knowl- 
edge to produce a practicable machine resembles 
the conversion of the automobile industry to 
manufacture of airplanes. The automobile indus- 
try worked with engines of about one hundred to 
two hundred horsepower, engines which generated 
something like one-eighth of a horsepower per 
pound. They were accustomed to overcoming 
structural deficiencies by adding more massive 
bracing, heavier gauge metal, or sturdier shafts. 

You don’t do that with plane design. The en- 
gines develop tens of hundreds of horsepower, 
and weigh something like one pound for each 
horsepower. When greater structural strength is 
needed, the designer must attain it by use of 
tougher alloys than the already incredibly tough 
material used — and design the shape of the mem- 
ber in such a way that it can be produced by 
already existent machine tools. No fancy, intri- 
cate cross-bracing structures that are impossible 
to make commercially. You’ve seen those Chinese 
puzzle gadgets with a solid wooden ball inside a 
wooden cage, all carved from a single solid block 
of hardwood? The manufacturer has no desire to 
see that sort of structure in the plans of the plane 
he’s supposed to build. Sure, he could do it, just 
as the Chinese do it — by infinite patience and skill- 
ful handwork. But not on a production line. 

The scientist attempting to adapt his discovery 
to use is faced with exactly comparable problems — 
plus some new ones. Suppose it’s a chemical pro- 
duction job. It’s perfectly true that seventy-four 
tons of calcium hydroxide will neutralize ninety- 
eight tons of sulphuric acid just as well as 
seventy-four grams of Ca (OH) 2 will neutralize 
ninety-eight grams of H 2 S0 4 . But when you try 
neutralizing things by the ton, don’t forget to 
include plenty of provision for heat dissipation 
— massive heat dissipation. 

And you may run into new troubles if your 
reaction isn’t a crude, simple inorganic reaction 
like that one. Those two substances will react 
in exactly the same way over a range of tem- 
peratures from way below (Continued on page 108) 



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• If time travel is, or ever will be possible in all time to come— 
why haven't time travelers appeared? Maybe this famous detective 
story writer has ferreted out the complete and reasonable solution! 



The first difficulty was with language. 

That is only to be expected when you jump five 
hundred years; but it is nonetheless perplexing to 
have your first casual query of: “What city is 
this?" answered by the sentence: “Stappers will 
get you. Or be you Slanduch?” 



It was significant that the first word John Brent 
heard in the State was “Stappers.” But Brent 
could not know that then. It was only some hours 
later and fifty years earlier that he learned the 
details of the Stapper system. At the moment all 
that concerned him was food and plausibility. 



10 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



His appearance was plausible enough. Follow- 
ing Derringer’s advice he had traveled naked — 
"the one costume common to all ages,” the scientist 
had boomed; “Which would astonish you more, 
lad: a naked man, or an Elizabethan courtier in 
full apparel?” — and commenced his life in the 
twenty-fifth century by burglary and the theft of 
a complete outfit of clothing. Iridescent woven 
plastics tailored in a half-clinging, half-flowing 
style that looked precious to Brent, but seemed 
both comfortable and functional. 

No man alive in 2473 would have bestowed a 
second glance on the feloniously clad Brent, but 
in his speech, he realized at once, lay the danger. 
He pondered the alternatives presented by the 
stranger. The Stappers would get him, unless 
he was a Slanduch. Whatever the Stappers were, 
things that Get You sound menacing. “Slanduch,” 
he replied. 

The stranger nodded. "That bees O. K.,” he 
said, and Brent wondered what he had committed 
himself to. "So what city is this?” he repeated. 

"Bees," the stranger chided. "Stappers be more 
severe now since Edict of 2470. Before they doed 
pardon some irregularities, but now none even 
from Slanduch.” 

“I be sorry,” said Brent humbly, making a men- 
tal note that irregular verbs were for some reason 
perilous. "But for the third time — ” 

He had thought the wall beside them was solid. 
He realized now that part of it, at least, was only 
a deceptive glasslike curtain that parted to let 
forth a tall and vigorous man, followed by two 
shorter aids. All three of these wore robes simi- 
lar to the iridescent garments of Brent and his 
companion, but of pure white. 

The leader halted and barked out, “George Star- 
vel?” 

Brent saw a quiet sort of terror begin to grow 
on his companion’s face. He nodded and held out 
his wrist. 

The man in white glanced at what Brent de- 
cided must be an identification plaque. “Starvel,” 
he announced, “you speaked against Barrier.” 

Starvel trembled. “Cosmos knows I doed not.” 

“Five mans know that you doed.” 

“Never. I only sayed — ” »- 

"You only! Enough!” 

The rod appeared in the man’s hand only for 
an instant. Brent saw no flame or discharge, but 
Starvel was stretched out on the ground and the 
two aids were picking him up as callously as 
though he were a log. 

The man turned toward Brent, who was taking 
no chances. He flexed his legs and sprang into 
the air. His fingertips grasped the rim of the 
balcony above them, and his feet shot out into 
the white-robed man’s face. His arm and shoul- 
der muscles tensed to their utmost. The smooth 
plastic surface was hell to keep a grip on. Be- 



neath, he could see his adversary struggling 
blindly to his feet and groping for the rod. At 
last, desperately, Brent swung himself up and over 
the edge. 

There was no time to contemplate the beauties 
of the orderly terrace garden. There was only 
time to note that there was but one door, and to 
make for it. It was open and led to a long corri- 
dor. Brent turned to the nearest door. Once 
you've damned yourself with Authority, any pri- 
vate citizen chosen at random is preferable to 
meeting your nemesis. He started at the door, 
and it opened before him. He hurried into an 
empty room. 

He looked back at the door. It was shut now, 
and no one was near to have touched it. He peered 
into the two adjoining rooms, whose doors were 
equally obliging. Bathroom and bedroom. No 
kitchen. And no exit but the door he had come 
through. 

He forced himself to sit down and think. Any- 
thing might happen before the Stapper caught up 
with him, for he had no doubt that was what the 
white-robed man must be. What had he learned 
about the twenty-fifth century in this brief en- 
counter? 

You must wear an identification plaque. (Memo : 
How to get one?) You must not use irregular 
verbs (or nouns; the Stapper had said “mans”). 
You must not speak against Barrier, whoever or 
whatever that meant. You must beware white- 
robed men who lurk behind false walls. You 
must watch out for rods that kill (query : or merely 
stun?). Doors open by selenium cells (query: 
how do they lock?). You must — 

The door opened. But it was not the Stapper 
who stood there, but a tall and majestic woman 
of, at a guess, sixty. A noble figure — "Roman 
matron" were the words that flashed into Brent’s 
mind. 

The presence of a total stranger in her apart- 
ment seemed nowise disconcerting. She opened 
her arms in a broad gesture of welcome. “John 
Brent!” she exclaimed in delighted recognition. 
“It has beed so long!” 

“I don’t want a brilliant young scientific genius!” 
Derringer had roared when Brent answered his 
cryptically worded ad. “I’ve got ’em here in 
the laboratory. They’ve done grand work on the 
machine. I couldn’t live without ’em, and there’s 
not a one of ’em I’d trust out of this century. Not 
out of this decade. What I want is four things: 
A knowledge of history, for a background of 
analogy to understand what’s been going on; 
linguistic ability, to adjust yourself as rapidly 
as possible to the changes in language; physical 
strength and dexterity, to get yourself out of 
the scrapes that are bound to come up ; and social 
adaptability. A chimpanzee of reasonably sub- 



THE BARRIER 



human intelligence could operate the machine. 
What counts is what you’ll be able to do and learn 
after you get there.” 

The knowledge of history and the physical quali- 
ties had been easy to demonstrate. The linguistic 
ability was a bit more complex; Derringer had 
contrived an intricate series of tests involving ad- 
justment to phonetic changes and the capacity to 
assimilate the principles of a totally fictitious lan- 
guage invented for the occasion. The social 
adaptability was measured partly by an aptitude 
test, but largely, Brent guessed, by Derringer’s 
own observation during the weeks of preparation 
after his probationary hiring. 

He had passed all four requirements with fly- 
ing colors. At least Derringer had grinned at 
him through the black beard and grunted the re- 
luctant. “Good man!" that was his equivalent of 
rhapsodic praise. His physical agility had 
already stood him in good stead, and his 
linguistic mind was rapidly assimilating the new 
aspects of the language (there were phonetic 
alterations as well as the changes in vocabulary 
and inflection — he was particularly struck by the 
fact that the vowels a and o no longer possessed 
the diphthongal off-glide so characteristic of 
English, but were pure vowels like the Italian e 
and o), but his social adaptability was just now 
hitting a terrific snag. 

What the hell do you do when a Roman matron 
whom yo* have never seen, born five hundred 
years after you, welcomes you by name and ex- 
claims that it has beed a long time? (This regular 
past participle of be, Brent reflected, gives the 
speaker something the quality of a Bostonian with 
a cold in the nose.) 

For a moment he toyed with the rash notion 
that she might likewise be a time traveler, some- 
one whom he had known in 1942. Derringer had 
been positive that this was the first such trip 
ever attempted ; but someone leaving the twentieth 
century later might still be an earlier arrival in the 
twenty-fifth. He experimented with the idea hesi- 
tantly. 

“I suppose," Brent ventured, “you could call 
five hundred years a long time, in its relative way.’’ 

The Roman matron frowned. “Do not jest, John. 
Fifty years be not five hundred. I will confess 
that first five years seemed at times like five cen- 
turies, but after fifty — one does not feel so 
sharply.” 

Does was of course pronounced dooze. All r’s, 
even terminal, were lightly trilled. These facts 
Brent noted in the back of his mind, but the fore 
part was concerned with the immediate situation. 
If this woman chose to accept him as an ac- 
quaintance — it was nowise unlikely that his double 
should be wandering about in this century — it 
meant probable protection from the Stapper. His 



logical mind protested, “Could this double have 
your name?” but he shushed it. 

“Did you,” he began, and caught himself. “Doed 
you see anyone in the hall — a man in white?” 

The Roman matron moaned. “Oh, John! Do 
Stappers seek you again? But of course. If you 
have corned to destroy Barrier, they must destroy 
you.” 

“Whoa there!" Brent had seen what happened 
to one person who had “speaked against Barrier." 
“I didn’t . . . doedn’t . . . say anything against Bar- 
rier. Not me.” 

The friendliness began to die from her clear 
blue eyes. “And I believed you," she said sor- 
rowfully. “You telled us of this second Barrier 
and sweared to destroy it. We thinked you beed 
one of us. And now—’’ 

No amount of social adaptability can resist a 
sympathetic and dignified woman on the verge 
of tears. Besides, this apartment was for the 
moment a valuable haven, and if she thought he 
was a traitor of some sort — 

“Look,” said Brent. “You see, I am— there isn’t 
any use at thiB moment trying to be regular — 
I am not whoever you think I am. I never saw 
you before. I couldn’t have conceivably. Because 
this is the first instant I’ve ever been in your 
time.” 

“If you wish to lie to me, John — ” 

“I’m not lying. And I’m not John — at least 
not the one you’re thinking of. I’m John Brent, 
I’m twenty-eight years old, and I was born in 
1914 — a good five and a half centuries ago.” 

You’d think a remark like that would have some 
effect. It sounds like an impressive curtain line. 
There should at least be a tableau of stunned re- 
action. But the Roman matron simply stared at 
him sadly and murmured, “I know, John, I know. 
Then why do you deny me and all our plans? 
What will Stephen think?” 

The amazement turned out to be Brent’s. “You 
. you know that I’m a time traveler?” 

“John, my dear, why be you so foolish? You 
be safe from Stappers here. Stephen has treated 
walls against listening. And you know that to 
admit to being time traveler is as dangerous as 
to admit your plans against Barrier. Trust me, 
John.” 

“For some unknown reason, madam, I do trust 
you. That’s why I’m telling you everything. I’m 
asking you to be my ally. And you persist in — ’’ 

The door opened. The man who entered was 
as tall as the Stapper, but wore the civilian’s iri- 
descent robes. His long beard seemed to have 
caught a little of their rainbow influence; it was 
predominantly red, but brown and black and white 
glinted in it. The hair on his head was graying. 
He might have been anywhere from forty-five to 
a vigorous and well-preserved seventy. 



12 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



"We have a guest, sister?" he asked politely. 
The Roman matron made a despairing gesture. 
“You don’t recognize him? And John — you don’t 
know Stephen?” 

Stephen slapped his thigh and barked — a sound 
that seemed to represent a laugh of pleasure. 
"Cosmos!” he cried. “John Brent! I told you, 
Martha. I knew he wouldn’t fail us.” 

“Stephen!” she exclaimed in shocked tones. 
“Hang the irregularities! Can't I greet John 
with the old words that corned — no, by Cosmos — 
came from the same past he' came from? See, 
John — don’t I talk the old language well? I even 
use article — pardon me, the article." 

Brent’s automatic mental notebook recorded the 
fact, which he had already suspected, that an 
article was as taboo as an irregular verb. But 
around this self-governing notation system swirled 
utter confusion. It might possibly have been just 
his luck to run into a madwoman. But two mad 
brains in succession with identical delusions were 
too much. And Stephen had known he was from 
the past, with no cue given him. 

“I’m afraid,” he said simply, “this is too much 
for me. Suppose we all sit down and have a drink 
of something and talk this over.” 

Stephen smiled. “You remember our bond, eh? 
And not many places in State you’ll find it. Even 
fewer than before.” He crossed to a cabinet and 
returned with three glasses of colorless liquid. 

Brent seized his eagerly and downed it. A drink 
might help the swirling. It might — The drink 
had gone down smoothly and tastelessly. Now, 
however, some imp began dissecting atoms in his 
stomach and shooting off a bombardment stream 
of particles that zoomed up through his throat 
into his brain, where they set off a charge of ex- 
plosive of hitherto unknown power. Brent let 
out a strangled yelp. 

Stephen barked again. "Good bond, eh, John?” 
Brent managed to focus his host through the 
blurring lens of his tears. "Sure," he nodded 
feebly. “Swell. And now let me try to explain — ” 
The woman looked sadly at her brother. “He 
denies us, Stephen. He sayes that he haves never 
seed me before. He forgets all that he ever 
sweared about Barrier.” 

A curious look of speculation came into Ste- 
phen’s brown eyes. “Bees this true, John? You 
have never seed us before in your life?” 

“But, Stephen, you know — ” 

“Hush, Martha. I sayed in his life. Bees it 
true, John?" 

"It bees. God knows it bees. I have never 
seen . . . seed either of you in my life.” 

“But Stephen — ” 

“I understand now, Martha. Remember when 
he telled us of Barrier and his resolve?” 

“Can I forget?” 

“How doed he know of Barrier? Tell me that.” 



“I don’t know,” Martha confessed. “I have 
wondered — ” 

“He knowed of Barrier then because he bees 
here now. He telled me then just what we must 
now tell him.” 

“Then for Heaven’s sake,” Brent groaned, "tell 
me.” 

“Your pardon, John. My sister bees not so 
quick to grasp source of these temporal confu- 
sions. More bond?” He had the bottle in his 
hand when he suddenly stopped, thrust it back 
in the cabinet, and murmured, “Go into bedroom." 

Brent obeyed. This was no time for displaying 
initiative. And no sooner had the bedroom door 
closed behind him than he heard the voice of the 
Stapper. (The mental notebook recorded that 
apartment buildings must be large, if it had taken 
this long for the search to reach here.) 

“No,” Stephen was saying. "My sister and I 
have becd here for past half-hour. We seed no 
one.” 

“State thanks you,” the Stapper muttered so 
casually that the phrase must have been an official 
formula. His steps sounded receding. Then they 
stopped, and there was the noise of loud sniffs. 

"Dear God,” thought Brent, "have they crossed 
the bulls with bloodhounds?” 

“Bond,” the Stapper announced. 

“Dear me,” came Martha’s voice. “Who haves 
beed in here today, Stephen?” 

“I’m a homeopath," said the Stapper. "Like 
cures like. A little bond might make me forget 
I smelled it.” 

There was a bark from Stephen and a clink of 
glasses. No noise from either of them as they 
downed the liquor. Those, sir, were men. (Memo : 
Find out why such unbelievable rotgut is called 
bond, of all things;) 

“State thanks you," said the Stapper, and 
laughed. “You know George Starvel, don’t you?” 

A slightly hesitant “Yes” from Stephen. 

“When you see him again, I think you’ll find 
he haves changed his mind. About many things.” 

There was silence. Then Stephen opened the 
bedroom door and beckoned Brent back into the 
living room. He handed the time traveler a glass 
of bond and said, “I will try to be brief.” 

Brent, now forewarned, sipped gingerly at the 
liquor and found it cheerfully warming as he as- 
similated the new facts. 

In the middle of the twenty-fourth century, he 
learned, civilization had reached a high point of 
comfort, satisfaction, achievement — and stagna- 
tion. The combination of atomic power and De 
Bainville’s revolutionary formulation of the prin- 
ciples of labor and finance had seemed to solve 
all economic problems. The astounding develop- 
ment of synthetics had destroyed the urgent need 
for raw materials and colonies and abolished the 



THE BARRIER 



13 



distinction between haves and have-nots among 
nations. Schwarzwalder’s “Compendium” had 
achieved the dream of the early Encyclopedists — 
the complete systematization of human knowledge. 
Farthing had regularized the English language, 
an achievement paralleled by the work of Zins- 
meister, Timofeov, and Tamayo y Sarate in their 
respective tongues. (These four languages now 
dominated the earth. French and Italian had be- 
come corrupt dialects of German, and the Oriental 
languages occupied in their own countries some- 
thing the position of Greek and Latin in nine- 
teenth-century Europe, and doomed soon to the 
complete oblivion which swallowed up those clas- 
sic tongues in the twenty-first.) 

There was nothing more to be achieved. All 
was known, all was accomplished. Nakamura’s 
Law of Spacial Acceleration had proved inter- 
planetary travel to be impossible for all time. 
Charnwood’s Law of Temporal Metabolism had 
done the same for time travel. And the Schwarz- 
walder “Compendium,” which everyone admired 
and no one had read, established such a satisfactory 
and flawless picture of knowledge that it was ob- 
viously impossible that anything remained to be 
discovered. 

It was then that Dyce-Farnsworth proclaimed 
the Stasis of Cosmos. A member of the Anglo- 
Physical Church, product of the long contempla- 
tion by English physicists of the metaphysical 
aspects of science, he came as the prophet needed 
to pander to the self-satisfaction of the age. 

He was curiously aided by Farthing's laws of 
regularity. The article, direct or indirect, Far- 
thing had proved to be completely unnecessary 
— had not languages as world-dominant as Latin 
in the first centuries and Russian in the twenty- 
first found no need for it? — and semantically mis- 
leading. “Article,” he had said in his final and 
comprehensive study “This Bees Speech,” “bees 
prime corruptor of human thinking.” 

And thus the statement so beloved in the twenti- 
eth century by metaphyiscal-minded scientists and 
physical-minded divines, “God is the cosmos," 
became with Dyce-Farnsworth “God bees cosmos,” 
and hence, easily and inevitably, “God bees 
Cosmos," so that the utter scientific impersonality 
became a personification of Science. Cosmos re- 
placed Jehovah, Baal and Odin. 

The love of Cosmos was not man nor his works, 
but Stasis. Man was tolerated by Cosmos that 
he might achieve Stasis. All the millenniums of 
human struggle had been aimed at this supreme 
moment when all was achieved, all was known, 
and all was perfect. Therefore this supernal 
Stasis must at all costs be maintained. Since 
Now was perfect, any alteration must be imperfect 
and taboo. 

From this theory logically evolved the State, 
whose duty was to maintain the perfect Stasis of 



Cosmos. No totalitarian government had ever 
striven so strongly to iron out all doubt and dis- 
sension. No religious bigotry had ever found 
heresy so damnable and worthy of destruction. 
The Stasis must be maintained. 

It was, ironically, the aged Dyce-Farnsworth 
himself who, in a moment of quasi-mystical in- 
tuition, discovered the flaw in Charnwood’s Law 
of Temporal Metabolism. And it was clear to 
him what must be done. 

Since the Stasis of Cosmos did not practice time 
travel, any earlier or later civilization that did 
so must be imperfect. Its emissaries would cause 
imperfection. There must be a Barrier. 

The mystic went no further than that dictum, 
but the scientists of the State put his demand into 
practical terms. “Do not ask how at this moment,” 
Stephen added. “I be not man to explain that. 
But you will learn.” The first Barrier was a 
failure. It destroyed itself and to no apparent 
result. But now, fifty years later, the fears of 
time travel had grown. The original idea of the 
imperfection of emissaries had been lost. Now 
time travel was in itself imperfect and evil. Any 
action taken against it would be an offering of 
praise to Cosmos. And the new Barrier was be- 
ing erected. 

“But John knows all this,” Martha protested 
from time to time, and Stephen would shake his 
head sadly and smile sympathetically at Brent. 

“I don’t believe a word of it,” Brent said at last. 
“Oh, the historical outline’s all right. I trust 
you on that. And it works out so sweetly by 
analogy. Take the religious fanaticism of the six- 
teenth century, the smug scientific self-satisfac- 
tion of the nineteenth, the power domination of 
the twentieth — fuse them and you’ve got your 
State. But the Barrier’s impossible. There’s no 
principle on which it could work, and nuts to it." 

“Chamwood claimed there beed no principle on 
which time travel canned work. And here you 
be.” 

“That’s different,” said Brent vaguely. “But 
all this talk of destroying the Barrier is nonsense. 
There’s no need to." 

“Indeed there bees need, John. For two reasons: 
one, that we may benefit by wisdom of travelers 
from other ages; and two, that positive act of 
destroying this Barrier, which bees worshiped 
now with something like fetishism, bees strongest 
weapon with which can strike against State. For 
there be these few of us who hope to save man- 
kind from this fanatical complacency that race 
haves failed into. George Starvel beed one,” Ste- 
phen added sadly. 

“I saw Starvel — But that isn’t what I mean. 
There’s no need because the Barrier won’t work.” 

“But you telled us that it haved to be destroyed,” 
Martha protested. “That it doed work, and that 
we — ” 



14 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“Hush,” said Stephen gently. “John, will you 
trust us far enough to show us your machine? 
I think I can make matters clearer to Martha 
then.” 

"If you’ll keep me out of the way of Stappers.” 

“That we can never guarantee — yet. But day 
will come when mankind cans forget Stappers 
and State, that I swear.” There was stern and 
noble courage in Stephen’s face and bearing as 
he drained his glass of bond to that pledge. 

“I had a break when I landed here,” John Brent 
explained on the way. "Derringer equipped the 
machine only for temporal motion. He explained 
that it meant running a risk; I might find that 
the coast line had sunk and I’d arrive under 
water, or God knows what. But he hadn’t worked 
out the synchronized adjustment for temporo- 
spacial motion yet, and he wanted to get started. 
I took the chance, and luck was good. Where 
the Derringer lab used to be is now apparently 
a deserted warehouse. Everything’s dusty and 
not a sign of human occupation.” 

Stephen’s eyes lit up as they approached the 
long low building of opaque bricks. “Remember, 
Martha?” 

Martha frowned and nodded. 

Faint light filtered through the walls to reveal 
the skeletal outlines of the machine. Brent 
switched on a light on the panel which gave a 
dim glow. 

“There’s not much to see even in a good light,” 
he explained. “Just these two seats — Derringer 
was planning on teams when he built it, but de- 
cided later that one man with sole responsibility 
to himself would do better — and this panel. These 
instruments are automatic — they adjust to the 
presence of another machine ahead of you in 
the time line. The only control the operator 
bothers with is this.” He indicated the double 
dial set at 2473. 

“Why doed you choose this year?" 

“At random. Derringer set the outer circle at 
2400 — half a millennium seemed a plausible choice. 
Then I spun the inner dial blindfold. When 
this switch here is turned, you create a certain 
amount of temporal potential, positive or nega- 
tive — which is as loose as applying those terms 
to magnetic poles, but likewise just as convenient. 
For instance if I turn it to here” — he spun the 
outer dial to 2900 — “you’ll have five hundred years 
of positive potential which’ll shoot you ahead to 
2973. Or set it like this, and you’ll have five cen- 
turies of negative, which’ll pull you back practi- 
cally to where I started from.” 

Stephen frowned. "Ahead and back be of course 
nonsense words in this connection. But they 
may be helpful to Martha in visualizing it. Will 
you please show Martha the back of your dial?” 

“Why?” There was no answer. Brent shrugged 



and climbed into the seat. The Roman matron 
moved around the machine and entered the other 
seat as he loosed the catch on the dial and opened 
it, as one did for oiling the adjusting gears. 

Stephen said, “Look well, my dear. What be 
the large wheels maked of?” 

“Aceroid, of course. Don’t you remember how 
Alex — ” 

“Don’t remember, Martha. Look. What be 
they?” 

Martha gasped. “Why, they . . . they be pure 
aluminum.” 

“Very well. Now don't you understand — Sshf” 
He broke off and moved toward the doorway. He 
listened there a moment, then slipped out of 
sight. 

“What does he have?” Brent demanded as he 
closed the dial. “The ears of an elkhound?” 

"Stephen haves hyperacute sense of hearing. 
He bees proud of it, and it haves saved us more 
than once from Stappers. When people be en- 
gaged in motive work against State — ” 

A man’s figure appeared again in the doorway. 
But its robes were white. "Good God!” Brent 
exclaimed. “Jiggers, the Staps!” 

Martha let out a little squeal. A rod appeared 
in the Stapper’s hand. Brent’s eyes were so fixed 
on the adversary that he did not see the matron’s 
hand move toward the switch until she had turned 
it. Then he shut his eyes and groaned. 

Brent had somehow instinctively shut his eyes 
during his first time transit. During, he reflected, 
is not the right word. At the time of? Hardly. 
How can you describe an event of time move- 
ment without suggesting another time measure 
perpendicular to the time line? At any rate, he 
had shut them in a laboratory in 1942 and opened 
them an instant later in a warehouse in 2473. 

Now he kept them shut. He had to think for a 
moment. He had been playing with the dial — 
where was it set when Martha jerked the switch? 
1973, as best he remembered. And he had now 
burst into that world in plastic garments of the 
twenty-fifth century, accompanied by a Roman 
matron who had in some time known him for 
fifty years. 

He did not relish the prospect. And besides 
he was bothered by that strange jerking, tear- 
ing sensation that had twisted his body when he 
closed his eyes. He had felt nothing whatsoever 
on his previous trip. Had something gone wrong 
this time? Had — 

“It doesn’t work!” said Martha indignantly. 

Brent opened his eyes. He and Martha sat in 
the machine in a dim warehouse of opaque brick. 

“We be still here,” she protested vigorously. 

“Sure we’re still here.” Brent frowned. “But 
what you mean is, we’re still now." 

“You talk like Stephen. What do you mean?” 



THE BARRIER 



15 



“Or are we?” His frown deepened. “If we’re 
still now, where is that Stapper? He didn’t van- 
ish just because you pulled a switch. How old 
is this warehouse?” 

“I don’t know. I think about sixty years. It 
beed fairly new when I beed a child. Stephen 
and I used to play near here.” 

“Then we could have gone back a few decades 
and still be here. Yes, and look — those cases over 
there. I’d swear they weren’t here before. After. 
Whatever. Then, when we saw the Stapper.” He 
looked at the dial. It was set to 1973. And the 
warehouse was new some time around 2420. 

Brent sat and stared at the panel. 

“What bees matter?” Martha demanded. “Where 
be we?” 

“Here, same like always. But what bothers me 
is just when we are. Come on; want to explore?" 

Martha shook her head. “I want to stay here. 
And I be afraid for Stephen. Doed Stappers 
get him? Let’s go back." 

“I’ve got to check up on things. Something's 
gone wrong, and Derringer’ll never forgive me 
if I don't find out what and why. You stay here 
if you want." 

“Alone?” 

Brent suppressed several remarks concerning 
women, in the abstract and the particular. “Stay 
or go, I don't care. I'm going.” 

Martha sighed. “You have changed so, John — ” 

In front of the warehouse was an open field. 
There had been buildings there when Brent last 
saw it. And in the field three young people were 
picnicking. The sight reminded Brent that it 
was a long time since he’d eaten. How you could 
measure gaps between meals when you shoot about 
among centuries, he didn’t know; but he was 
hungry. 

He made toward the trio. There were two 
men and a girl. One man \yas blond, the other 
and the girl were brilliantly red-headed. The 
girl had much more than even that hair to rec- 
ommend her. She — Brent's eyes returned to 
the red-headed man. There was no mistaking 
those deep brown eyes, that sharp and noble nose. 
The beard was scant, but still there was no de- 
nying" — 

Brent sprang forward with an eager cry of 
“Stephen I” 

The young man looked at him blankly. “Yes,” 
he said politely. “What do you want?” 

Brent mentally kicked himself. He had met 
Stephen in advanced age. What would the Ste- 
phen of twenty know of him? And suddenly 
he began to understand a great deal. The whole 
confusion of that first meeting started to fade 
away. 

“If I tell you," he said rapidly, “that I know 
that you be Stephen, that you have sister Martha, 



that you drink bond despite Stappers, and that 
you doubt wisdom of Barrier, will you accept 
me as a man you can trust?" 

“Cosmic asons!” the blond young man drawled. 
“Stranger knows plenty, Stephen. If he bees 
Stapper, you’ll have your mind changed.” 

The scantily bearded youth looked a long while 
into Brent’s eyes. Then he felt in his robe, pro- 
duced a flask, and handed it over. Brent drank 
and returned it. Their hands met in a firm clasp. 

Stephen grinned at the others. “My childs, 
I think stranger brings us adventure. I feel like 
someone out of novel by Varnichek." He turned 
back to Brent. “Do you know these others, too?” 

Brent shook his head. 

“Krasna and Alex. And your name?” 

“John Brent.” 

“And what can we do for you, John?" 

“First tell me year." 

Alex laughed, and the girl smiled. “And how 
long have you beed on a bonder?” Alex asked. 

A bonder, Brent guessed, would be a bond 
bender. “This bees my first drink,” he said, 
“since 1942. Or perhaps since 2473, according as 
how you reckon.” 

Brent was not disappointed in the audience re- 
action this time. 

It’s easy to see what must have happened, 
Brent wrote that night in the first entry of the 
journal Derringer had asked him to keep. He 
wrote longhand, an action that he loathed. The 
typewriter which Stephen had kindly offered him 
was equipped with a huge keyboard bearing the 
forty-odd characters of the Farthing phonetic 
alphabet, and Brent declined the loan. 

We’re at the first Barrier — the one that failed. 
It was dedicated to Cosmos and launched this 
afternoon. My friends were among the few in- 
habitants not ecstatically present at the ceremony. 
Since then they've collected reports for me. The 
damned contrivance had to be so terrifically over- 
loaded that it blew up. Dyce-Farnsworth was 
killed and will be a holy martyr to Cosmos for- 
ever. 

But in an infinitesimal fraction of a second be- 
tween the launching and the explosion, the Bar- 
rier existed. That was enough. It is gone now. 
It is of no use to protect the people of this smug 
and sacred Stasis from raids from a more human 
future. But it existed at that one point in time, 
existed effectively enough to stop me dead. 

Which makes keeping this journal, my dear 
Dr. Derringer, a magnificently silly act. In all 
likelihood neither you nor anyone else before 
2423 will ever see it. (Will ever have seen it?) 
But you see, sir, I obey instructions. Nice of me, 
isn’t it? 

And I’ve been finding out all I can. Stephen is 



16 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




good on history, but lousy on science. The blond 
young Alex reverses the combination. From him 
I’ve learned, or tried to learn, the theory back 
of the Barrier. 

The Barrier established, in that fractional sec- 
ond, a powerful magnetic field in the temporal 
dimension. As a result, any object moving along 
the time line is cutting the magnetic field. Hys- 
teresis sets up strong eddy currents which bring 
the object, in this case me, to an abrupt halt. 
Cf. that feeling of twisting shock that I had when 
my eyes were closed. 

I pointed out to Alex that I must somehow 
have crossed this devilish Barrier in going from 
1942 to 2473. He accounts for that apparent in- 
consistency by saying that I was then traveling 
with the time stream, though at a greater rate; 
the blockage lines of force were end-on and didn’t 
stop me. 

Brent paused and read the last two paragraphs 
aloud to the young scientist who was tinkering 



with the traveling machine. "How’s that, Alex? 
Clear enough?” 

“It will do.” Alex frowned. "Of course we 
need whole new vocabulary for temporal con- 
cepts. We fumble so helplessly in analogies — ” 
He rose "There bees Nothing more I can do for 
this now. Tomorrow I’ll bring out some tools 
from shop, and see if I can find some aceroid 
gears to fit control.” 

“Good man. I may not be able to go back in 
time from here; but one thing I can do is go for- 
ward. Forward to just before they launch that 
second Barrier. I’ve got a job to do.” 

Alex gazed admiringly at the machine. "Won- 
derful piece of work. Your Dr. Derringer bees 
great man.” 

“Only he didn’t allow for the effects of temporo- 
magnetic hysteresis on his mechanism. Thank 
God for you, Alex.” 

"Willn’t you come back to house?” 

Brent shook his head. “I’m taking no chances 



THE BARRIER 



on curious Stappers. I’m sticking here with Baby. 
See that the old lady’s comfortable, will you?” 

“Of course. But tell me: who bees she? She 
willn’t talk at all.” 

“Nobody. Just a temporal hitchhiker.” 

Martha’s first sight of the young Stephen had 
been a terrible shock. She had stared at him 
speechlessly for long minutes, and then gone into 
a sort of inarticulate hysteria. Any attempt at 
explanation of her status, Brent felt, would only 
make matters worse. There was nothing to do 
but leave her to the care — which seemed both 
tender and efficient — of the girl Krasna, and let 
her life ride until she could resume it normally 
in her own time. 

He resumed his journal: 

Philological notes: Stapper, as I should have 
guessed, is a corruption of Gestapo. Slanduch, 
which poor Starvel suggested I might be, had me 
going for a bit. Asking about that, learned that 
there is more than one State. This, the smug- 
gest and most fanatical of them all, embraces 
North America, Australia, and parts of Eastern 
Asia. Its ofScial language is. of course, Farthing- 
ized English. Small nuclear groups of English- 
speaking people exist in the other States, and 
have preserved the older and irregular forms of 
speech. (Cf. American mountaineers, and Span- 
ish Jews in Turkey.) A Slanduch is a member 
of one of these groups. 

It took me some time to realize the origin of 
this word, but it’s obvious enough: Auslands- 
deutsche, the Germans who existed similarly cut 
off from the main body of their culture. With 
these two common loan words suggesting a marked 
domination at some time of the German language, 
I asked Alex — and I must confess almost fear- 
fully — "Then did Germany win the war?” 

He not unnaturally countered with, “Which 
war?" 

“ The Second World War. Started in 1939." 

"Second — Cosmic aeons, John, you can’t ex- 
pect me to remember numbers of all those twenti- 
eth-century World Wars, can you?” 

I am almost afraid to ask the more historically 
accurate Stephen. 

Brent paused, and wished for Stephen’s ears 
to determine the nature of that small noise out- 
side. Or was it pure imagination? He went on: 

These three — Stephen. Alex, and Krasna — have 
proved to be the ideal hosts for a traveler of my 
nature. Any devout believer in Cosmos, any loyal 
upholder of the Stasis would have turned me over 
to the Stappers for my first slip in speech or 
ideas. 

They seem to be part of what corresponds to 
the Underground Movements of my own century. 
They try to accomplish a sort of boring from 
within, a subtle sowing of doubts as to the Stasis. 



il 

Eventually they hope for more positive action; 
so far it is purely mental sabotage. 

Their motives are various. Some are crack- 
pots, pure and simple. Some are artists who re- 
bel against the limitations imposed by the State. 
Some are scientists who remain unconvinced that 
Schwarzwalder solved everything. Stephen says 
simply that he is a Christian — which most of 
the others consider an almost comic anachronism 
—and that Cosmos is a false god; but I think the 
Christian love of mankind is a stronger motive 
force in him than any doctrinary matter of the 
rivalry of names for godhead. Alex is a Seepy 
— a word the meaning of which I haven’t yet been 
able to gather. Krasna — 

It was a noise. Brent set down his stylus and 
moved along the wall as quietly as possible to 
the door. He held his breath while the door 
slid gently inward. Then aB the figure entered, 
he pounced. 

Stappers have close-cropped hair and flat manly 
chests. Brent released the girl abruptly and mut- 
tered a confused apology. 

“It bees only me,” she said shyly. “Krasna. 
Doed I startle you?" 

“A bit," he confessed. “Alex and Stephen 
warned me what might happen if a Stapper stum- 
bled on my machine here.” 

“I be sorry, John.” 

“It’s all right. But you shouldn’t be wander- 
ing around alone at night like this. In fact, you 
shouldn’t be mixed up in this at all. Leave it to 
Stephen and Alex and me.” 

“Mans!” she pouted. “Don’t you think womans 
have any right to fun?" 

“I don’t know that fun’s exactly the word. 
But since you’re here, milady, let me extend the 
hospitality of the camp. Alex left me some bond. 
That poison grows on you. And tell me, why’s 
it called that?” 

“Stephen telled me once, but I can’b — Oh 
yes. When they prohibited all drinking because 
drinking makes you think world bees better than 
it really bees and of course if you make yourself 
different world that bees against Stasis and so 
they prohibited it but they keeped on using it 
for medical purposes and that beed in warehouses 
and pretty soon no one knowed any other kind 
of liquor so it bees called bond. Only I don't 
see why.” 

“I don’t suppose,” Brent remarked, “that any- 
body in this century has ever heard of one Gracie 
Allen, but her spirit is immortal. The liquor in 
the warehouses was probably kept under govern- 
ment bond.” 

“Oh — ” she said meekly. “I’ll remember. You 
know everything, don’t you?” 

Brent looked at her suspiciously, but there was 
no irony in the remark. “How’s the old lady 
getting on?” 



18 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“Fine. She bees sleeping now at last. Alex 
gived her some dormitin. She bees nice, John.” 
“And yet your voice sounds worried. What’s 
the matter?” 

“She bees so much like my mother only, of 
course, I don’t remember my mother much be- 
cause I beed so little when Stappers taked my 
father and then my mother doedn’t live very long 
but I do remember her some and your old lady 
bees so much like her. I wish I haved knowed 
my mother goodlier, John. She beed dear. 
She — ” She lowered her voice in the tone of 
one imparting a great secret. "She cooked!” 
Brent remembered their tasteless supper of ex- 
tracts, concentrates, and synthetics, and shud- 
dered. “I wish you had known her, Krasna.” 
“You know what cooking means? You go out 
and you dig up roots and you pick leaves off of 
plants and some people they even used to take 
animals, and then you apply heat and — ” 

“I know. I used to be a fair-to-middling cook 
myself, some five hundred years ago. If you 
could lead me to a bed of coals, a clove of garlic, 
and a two-inch steak, milady, I’d guarantee to 
make your eyes pop.” 

"Garlic? Steak?” Her eyes were wide with 
wonder. “What be those?” 

Brent explained. For ten minutes he talked 
of the joys of food, of the sheer ecstatic satis- 
faction of good eating that passes the love of 
woman, the raptures of art, or the wonders of 
science. Then her questions began to pour forth. 

“Stephen learns things out of books and Alex 
learns things in lab but I can’t do that so goodly 
and they both make fun of me only you be real 
and I can learn things from you, John, and it 
bees wonderful. Tell me — ” 

And Krasna, with a greedy ear, devoured up 
his discourse. 

“ — and men were free,” he ended. “Free to 
damn and ruin themselves if they choose, but 
free also to live nobly, enriching the world and 
themselves by their striving. For all perfection 
comes from within, and the ‘perfection’ that is 
imposed from without is as frivolous and stupid 
as the trimmings on gingercake. The free man 
may be bad, but only the free man can be good. 
And all the kingdom and the power and the 
glory — call it of God, call it of Cosmos — must 
arise from the free will of man.” 

He stopped, somewhat surprised at his own 
eloquence. The tyrannical smugness of this age 
was working upon him powerfully. 

Krasna was kneeling at his feet. He could feel 
the warmth of her young body against his. “Go 
on,” she whispered. Her large eyes glowed up 
at him. 

“That’s all. And damned if I know how I 
talked that long.” His hand rested on the soft 
mass of her flowing red hair. 



“You be wonderful,” she murmured. 

Brent coughed and said, “Nuts!” His hand 
stroked her head gently. 

The rest of that evening was not recorded in 
the Derringer journal. 

The machine was not repaired the next day, 
nor the next. Alex kept making plausible, if not 
quite intelligible, technical excuses. Martha kept 
to her room and fretted; but Brent rather wel- 
comed the delay. There was no hurry; leaving 
this time several days later had no effect on when 
they reached 2473. But he had some difficulty 
making that point clear to the matron. 

This delay gave him an opportunity to see some- 
thing of the State in action, and any information 
acquired was apt to be useful when the time 
came. With various members of Stephen's in- 
formal and illicit group he covered the city. He 
visited a Church of Cosmos and heard the offi- 
cial doctrine on the failure of the Barrier — the 
Stasis of Cosmos did not permit time travel, so 
that even an attempt to prohibit it, by recog- 
nizing its existence affronted the Stasis. He 
visited libraries and found only those works which 
had established or upheld the Stasis, all bound 
in the same uniform format which the Cosmic 
Bibliological Committee of 2407 had ordained as 
ideal and static. He visited scientific laboratories, 
and found brilliant young dullards plodding 
away endlessly at what had already been estab- 
lished ; imaginative research was manifestly peril- 
ous. 

He heard arid stretches of intolerable music 
composed according to the strict Farinelli sys- 
tem, which forbade, among other things, any al- 
teration of key or time for the duration of a com- 
position. He went to a solly, which turned out 
to be a deceptively solid three-dimensional mo- 
tion picture. It was a flat and undramatic ex- 
position of the glories of Stasis; but Brent sus- 
pected the author of being an Undergrounder. 
The villain, even though triumphantly bested by 
the Stappers in the end, had all the most plausible 
and best written speeches, some of them ingenious 
and strong enough to sow doubts in the audience. 

If, Brent thought disgustedly, anything could 
sow doubts in this smug herd of cattle. For the 
people of the State seemed to take the deepest 
and most loving pride in everything pertaining 
to the State and to the Stasis of Cosmos. The 
churches, the libraries, the laboratories, the mu- 
sic, the sollies, all represented humanity at its 
highest peak. We have attained perfection, have 
we not? Then all this bees perfect, and we love 
it. 

“What we need,” he expostulated to Alex and 
Stephen one night, "is more of me. Lots more. 
Scads of us pouring in from all ages to light 
firecrackers under these dopes. Every art and 



THE BARRIER 



19 



every science has degenerated far worse than 
anything did in the Dark Ages. The surface 
attainment is still there; but everything’s gone 
from under it. Man cannot be man without striv- 
ing; and all striving is abolished. God, I think 
if I lived in this age and believed in the Stasis, 
I’d become a Stapper. Better their arrogant cru- 
elty than the inhuman indifference of everybody 
else.” 

"I have brother who bees Stapper,” said Ste- 
phen. “I do not recommend it. To descend to 
level of cows and oxes bees one thing. To be- 
come wolves and jackals bees another.” 

“I’ve gathered that those rods paralyze the 
nerve centers, right? But what happens to you 
after that in Stappers' hands?” 

“It bees not good. First you be treated ac- 
cording to expert psychoanalytic and psycho- 
metric methods so as to alter your concepts and 
adjust you to Stasis. If that fails, you be care- 
fully reduced to harmless idiocy. Sometimes they 
find mind that bees too strong for treatment. He 
bees killed, and Stappers be allowed to play with 
him first.” 

Brent shuddered. “Not nice.” 

“It’ll never happen to me,” Alex said earnestly. 
“I be prepared. You see this?” He indicated a 
minute plastic box suspended around his neck. 
"It contains tiny amount of radioactive matter 
sensitized to wave length of Stappers’ rods. They 
will never change my mind.” 

"It explodes?” 

Alex grinned. "Stay away from me if rods 
start waving.” 

“It seems,” Brent mused, “as though cruelty 
were the only human vice left. Games are lost, 
drinking is prohibited — and that most splendid 
of vices, imaginative speculation, is unheard of. 
I tell you, you need lots of me.” 

Stephen frowned. "Before failure of Barrier, 
we often wondered why we never seed time trav- 
elers. We doubted Charnwood’s Law and yet — 
We decided there beed only two explanations. 
Either time travel bees impossible, or time trav- 
elers cannot be seed or intervene in time they 
visit. Now, of course, we can see that Barrier 
stopped all from future, and perhaps you be only 
one from past. And still — ” 

"Exactly,” said Alex. “And still. If other trav- 
elers came from future, why be^d they not also 
stopped by Barrier? One of our friends haves 
haved opportunity to search Stapper records since 
breakdown of Barrier. No report on strange and 
unidentified travelers anywhere.” 

"That cans mean only one thing.” Stephen 
looked worried. “Second Barrier, Barrier you 
telled us of, John, must be successful.” 

“The hell it will be. Come on, Alex. I’m get- 
ting restless. When can I start?” 

Alex smiled. “Tomorrow. I be ready at last.” 
AST— 2K 



"Good man. Among us, we are going to blow 
this damned Stasis back into the bliss of manly 
and uncertain striving. And in fifty years we’ll 
watch’ it together.” 

Krasna was waiting outside the room when 
Brent left. “I knowed you willed be talking about 
things I doedn’t understand.” 

“You can understand this, milady. Alex has 
got everything fixed, and we leave tomorrow.” 
Krasna put her soft hand gently in his and 
wordlessly walked back to the warehouse with 
him. 

“Now,” said Brent to Stephen after what was 
euphemistically termed breakfast, “I’ve got to see 
the old lady and find out just what the date is 
for the proposed launching of the second Bar- 
rier.” 

Stephen beamed. “It bees such pleasure to hear 
old speech, articles and all.” 

Alex had a more practical thought. "How can 
you set it to one day? I thinked your dial readed 
only in years.” 

“There’s a vernier attachment that’s accurate — 
or should be, it’s never been tested yet — to within 
two days. I'm allowing a week’s margin. I don't 
want to be around too long and run chances with 
Stappers.” 

“Krasna will miss you.” 

“Krasna’s a funny name. You others have names 
that were in use back in my day.” 

"Oh, it bees not name. It bees only what 
everyone calls red-headed girl6. I think it goes 
back to century of Russian domination.” 

"Yes,” Alex added. "Stephen’s sister's real 
name bees Martha, but we never call her that.” 
John Brent gaped. “I . . . I’ve got to go see the 
old lady,” he stammered. “The old lady — the red- 
head — Martha — Krasna — Stephen’s sister — ” 

Small wonder she was shocked when he didn’t 
know her! 

From the window of the gray-haired Martha- 
Krasna he could see the red-headed Krasna- 
Martha outside. He held on to a solid and re- 
assuring chair and said, "Well, madam, I have 
news. We’re going back today.” 

"Oh thank Cosmos!" 

“But I’ve got to find out something from you. 
What was the date set for the launching of the 
second Barrier?” 

“Let me see — I know it beed holiday. Yes, 
it beed May 1st.” 

“My, my! May Day a holiday now? Workers 
of the World Unite, or simply Gathering Nuts 
in May?” 

“I don’t understand you. It bees Dyce-Fams- 
worth’s birthday, of course.” 

“Oh. Well, be out at the warehouse in half an 
hour, and we'll be off.” 

The young Krasna-Martha was alone in the 



20 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



warehouse when Brent got there. He looked at 
her carefully, trying to see in her youthful fea- 
tures the worn ones of the woman he had just left. 
It made sense. 

“I corned first,” she said, “because I wanted to 
say good-by without others." 

“Good-by, milady,” Brent murmured into her 
fine red hair. “In a way I’m not leaving you 
because I’m taking you with me and still I’ll never 
see you again. And you don’t understand that, 
and I’m not sure you’ve ever understood any- 
thing I’ve said, but you’ve been very sweet.” 
“And you will destroy Barrier? For me?” 
“For you, milady. And a few billion others. 
And here come our friends.” 

Alex carried a small box which he tucked un- 
der one of the seats. “Dial and mechanism beed 
repaired days ago,” he grinned. “I've beed work- 
ing on this for you, in lab while I should have 
been re-proving Tsvetov’s hypothesis. Temporal 
demagnetizer — guaranteed. Bring this near Bar- 
rier and field will be breaked. Your problem bees 
to get near Barrier." 

Martha, the matron, climbed into the machine. 
Martha, the girl, turned away to hide watering 
eyes. Brent set the dial to 2473 and adjusted 
the vernier to April 24th, which gave him a week’s 
grace. “Well, friends,” he faltered. “My best 
gratitude — and I’ll be seeing you in fifty years." 

Stephen started to speak, and then suddenly 
stopped to listen. “Quick, Krasna, Alex. Behind 
those cases. Turn switch quickly, John.” 

Brent turned the switch, and nothing happened. 
Stephen and Krasna were still there, moving to- 
ward the cases. Alex darted to the machine. 
“Cosmos blast me! I maked disconnection to pre- 
vent anyone’s tampering by accident. And now — ” 
“Hurry, Alex,” Stephen called in a whisper. 
“Moment — ” Alex opened the panel and made 
a rapid adjustment. “There, John. Good-by." 

In the instant before Brent turned the switch, 
he saw Stephen and Krasna reach a safe hiding 
place. He saw a Stapper appear in the doorway. 
He saw the flicker of a rod. The last thing he 
saw in 2423 was the explosion that lifted Alex’s 
head off his shoulders. 

The spattered blood was still warm in 2473. 

Stephen, the seventy-year-old Stephen with the 
long and parti-colored beard, was waiting for 
them. Martha dived from the machine into his 
arms and burst into dry sobbing. 

“She met herself,” Brent explained. “I think 
she found it pretty confusing." 

Stephen barked: “I can imagine. It bees only 
now that I have realized who that woman beed 
who corned with you and so much resembled our 
mother. But you be so late. I have beed waiting 
here ever since I evaded Stappers.” 

“Alex — " Brent began. 



“I know. Alex haves gived you magnetic dis- 
ruptor and losed his life, poor devil. But that 
bees fifty-year-old sorrow, and we have no time 
for it. Why have you beed so long?” 

“I didn’t want to get here too long before 
May Day — might get into trouble. So I allowed 
a week, but I’ll admit I might be a day or so 
off. What date is it?” 

“This bees May 1st, and Barrier will be launched 
within hour. We must hurry.” 

“My God — ” Brent glared at the dial. “It 
can’t be that far off. But come on. Get your 
sister home and we’ll plunge on to do our damned- 
est” 

Martha roused herself. “I be coming with you." 

“No, dear," said Stephen. “We can do better 
alone.” 

Her lips set stubbornly. “I be coming. I don’t 
understand anything that happens, but you be 
Stephen and you be John, and I belong with you." 

The streets were brightly decorated with ban- 
ners bearing the double loop of infinity, the sa- 
cred symbol of Cosmos that had replaced cres- 
cent, swastika, and cross. But there was hardly 
a soul in sight. What few people they saw were 
all hurrying in the same direction. 

“Everyone will be at dedication,” Stephen ex- 
plained. “Tribute to Cosmos. Those who stay 
at home must beware Stappers.” 

“And if there’s hundreds of thousands throng- 
ing the dedication, how do we get close to Barrier 
to disrupt it?” 

"It bees all arranged. Our group bees far more 
powerful than when you knowed it fifty years 
ago. Slowly we be honeycombing system of State. 
With bribery and force when necessary, with 
persuasion when possible, we can do much. And 
we have arranged this.” 

"How?” 

“You be delegate from European Slanduch. 
You speak German?" 

“Well enough.” 

“Remember that haves beed regularized, too. 
But I doubt if you need to speak any. Making 
you Slanduch will account for irregular slips 
in English. You come from powerful Slanduch 
group. You will be gladly welcomed here. You 
will occupy post of honor. I have even accounted 
for box you carry. It bees tribute you have 
bringed to Cosmos. Here be your papers and 
identity plaque." 

“Thanks." Brent's shorter legs managed to 
keep up with the long strides of Stephen, who 
doubled the rate of the moving sidewalk by his 
own motion. Martha panted along resolutely. 
“But can you account for why I’m so late? I 
set my indicator for April 24th, and here we are 
rushing to make a date on May 1st.” 

Stephen strode along in thought, then sud- 



THE BARRIER 



21 



denly slapped his leg and barked. “How many 
months in 1942?” 

“Twelve, of course.” 

“Ha! Yes, it beed only two hundred years 
ago that thirteen-month calendar beed adopted. 
Even months of twenty-eight days each, plus Year 
Day, which belongs to no month. Order, you 
see. Now invaluable part of Stasis — ” He con- 
centrated frowningly on mental arithmetic. “Yes, 
your indicator worked exactly. May 1st of our 
calendar bees April 24th of yours.” 

Chalk up one slip against Derringer — an un- 
thinking confidence in the durability of the cal- 
endar. And chalk up one, for Brent’s money, 
against the logic of the Stasis; back in the twenti- 
eth century, he had been an advocate of calendar 
reform, but a stanch upholder of the four-quarter 
theory against the awkward and indivisible thir- 
teen months. 

They were nearing now the vast amphitheater 
where the machinery of the Barrier had been 
erected. Stappers were stopping the few other 
travelers and forcing them off the moving side- 
walk into the densely packed crowds, faces aglow 
with the smug ecstasy of the Stasis, but Brent's 
Slanduch credentials passed the three through 
every guard station, with short but infuriating 
delays. 

"We’ll make it.” Stephen’s eyes were afire. 
"Remember what you sayed to Alex and me? 
How State needs hundreds of you, to put explo- 
sive beneath it and blow it into awareness? If 
we — ” He broke off speaking as they neared an- 
other Stapper. 

This one looked at the credentials and grinned. 
"Also! Sie wesen Slandsdeutsch und zwar aus 
Deutschland!" He burst out in Zinsmeisterized 
German. "Seit jahre habe ich kein Wort deutsch 
gelid rt. Mein eltere wesen von deutsch her- 
kunft 

Brent’s curious mind recorded the necessary 
notes on this perverted language, but there was 
no time to waste. He tried to avoid irregular 
slips as he replied, "Freut mich sehr. Aber jetst 
habe ich kein zeit. Ich miisse eilen. Spater viel- 
leicht konne ich — " 

But the Stapper was, for a Stapper, amazingly 
friendly — a pleasing phenomenon at any other 
time, but hardly now. He rattled on in this cor- 
rect speech until Brent glanced around to see 
that Stephen had precipitated action by dragging 
Martha on ahead. "Ach!” Brent cried. "Mein 
Ireunde wesen schon gegeht. Verzeihen sie!” 
And he sped after them. 

The representative of the German Slanduch 
pushed his way into the crowd of eminent digni- 
taries just as Dyce-Farnsworth’s grandson pressed 
the button. The magnificent mass of tubes and 
wires shuddered and glowed as the current pulsed 



through it. Then the glow became weird and 
arctic. There was a shaking, a groaning, and then, 
within the space of a second, a cataclysmic roar 
and a blinding glare. Something heavy and 
metallic pressed Brent to the ground. 

The roar blended into the excited terror of 
human voices. The splendid Barrier was a mass 
of twisted wreckage. It was more wreckage that 
weighted Brent down, but this was different. It 
looked strangely like a variant of his own ma- 
chine. And staring down at him from a warped 
seat was the enormous and huge-eyed head of a 
naked man. 

A woman in a metallic costume equally strange 
to this age and to Brent’s own straddled the body 
of Dyce-Farnsworth’s grandson, who had met his 
ancestor’s martyrdom. And wherever Brent’s 
eyes moved he saw another strange and outland- 
ish — no, out-time-ish — figure. 

He heard Martha’s voice. “It bees clear that 
Time Barrier haves beed erected and destroyed 
by outside force. But it haves existed and cre- 
ated impenetrable instant of time. These be trav- 
elers from all future.” 

Brent gasped. Even the sudden appearance 
of these astounding figures was topped by Mar- 
tha’s speaking perfect logical sense. 



Brent wrote in his journal: The Stasis is at 
least an admirably functional organism. All hell 
broke loose there for a minute, but almost auto- 
matically the Stappers went into action with their 
rods — odd how that bit of crook's cant has be- 
come perfectly literal truth — and in no time had 
the situation well in hand. 

They had their difficulties. Several of the time 
intruders were armed, and managed to account 
for a handful of Stappers before the nerve rays 
paralyzed them. One machine was a sort of time- 
traveling tank and contrived to withstand siege 
until a suicide squad of Stappers attacked it with 
a load of what Stephen tells me was detonite; 
we shall never know from what sort of a future 
the inhabitants of that tank came to spatter their 
shredded flesh about the amphitheater. 

But these events were mere delaying action, 
token resistance. Ten minutes after the Barrier 
had exploded, the travelers present were all in 
the hands of the Stappers, and cruising Stapper 
bands were efficiently combing all surrounding 
territory. 

(The interesting suggestion comes amazingly 
from Martha that ail time machines capable of 
physical movement were irresistibly attracted to 
the amphitheater by the temporomagnetic field. 
Only such pioneer and experimental machines as 
my Derringer, which can move only temporally, 
would be arrested in other locations. Whether 
or not this theory is correct, it seems justified 



22 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



by the facts. Only a few isolated reports have 
come in of sudden appearances elsewhere at the 
instant of the Barrier’s explosion; the focus of 
arrivals of the time travelers was the amphi- 
theater.) 

The Chief of Stappers mounted the dais where 
an infinity-bedecked banner now covered the 
martyred corpse of young Dyce-Farnsworth, and 
announced the official ruling of the Head of State: 
That these intruders and disrupters of the Stasis 
were to be detained — tested and examined and 
studied until it became apparent what the desire 
of Cosmos might be. 

(The Head of State, Stephen explained, is a 
meaningless figurehead, part high priest and — I 
paraphrase — part Alexander Throttlebottom. The 
Stasis is supposedly so perfect and so self-sustairr- 
ing that his powers are as nominal as those of the 
pilot of a ship in drydock, and all actual power 
is exercised by such subordinates as the Editor 
of State and the Chief of Stappers.) 

Thanks to Stephen’s ingenuity, this rule for 
the treatment of time travelers does not touch 
me. / am simply a Slanduch envoy. (I must 
remember to polish myself in that highly ob- 
noxious Zinsmeisteriert German.) Some S tapper 
search party has certainly by now found the Der- 
ringer machine in the warehouse, which I no 
longer dare approach. 

With two Barriers now between me and 1942, 
it is obvious that I am keeping this journal only 
for myself. I am stuck here — and so are all the 
other travelers, for this field, far stronger than 
the first, has wrecked their machines beyond the 
repairing efforts of a far greater talent than poor 
Alex. We are all here for good. 

And it must be for good. 

I still believe firmly what I said to Stephen 
and Alex: that this age needs hundreds of me 
to jolt it back into humanity. We now have, 
if not hundreds, at least dozens; and I, so far 
as we yet know, am the only one not in the hands 
of the Stappers. It is my clearest duty to de- 
liver those others, and with their aid to beat 
some sense into this Age of Smugness. 

“But how?" Brent groaned rhetorically. “How 
am I going to break into the Stappers’ concen- 
tration camp and set free all these fellow trav- 
elers to aid me?" 

Martha wrinkled her brows. “I think I know. 
Let me work on problem while longer; I believe 
I see how we can at littlest make start.” 

Brent stared at her. “What’s happened to you, 
madam? Always before you’ve shrunk away from 
every discussion Stephen and I have had. You’ve 
said we talk of things you know nothing about. 
And now, all of a sudden — boom! — you’re right 
in the middle of things and doing very nicely 
thank you. What’s got into you?” 



“I think," said Martha smiling, “you have hitted 
on right phrase, John.” 

Brent’s puzzled expostulation was broken off 
by Stephen’s entrance. “And where have you 
been?” he demanded. “I’ve been trying to work 
out plans, and I’ve got a weird feeling Martha’s 
going to beat me to it. What have you been up 
to?” 

Stephen looked curiously at his sister. “I’ve 
beed out galping. Interesting results, too.” 

“Galping?” 

“You know. Going about among people, taking 
samples of opinion, using scientific method to 
reduce carefully choosed samples to general 
trends.” 

“Oh.” (Mr. Gallup, thought Brent, has joined 
Captain Boycott and M. Guillotin as a verb.) 
“And what did you learn?” 

“People be confused by arrival of time trav- 
elers. If Stasis bees perfect, they argue, why 
be such arrivals allowed? Seeds of doubt be 
sowed, and we be carefully watering them. Head 
of State haves problem on his hands. I doubt 
if he cans find any solution to satisfy people." 

“If only,” Brent sighed, “there were some way 
of getting directly at the people. If we could 
see these travelers and learn what they know 
and want, then somehow establish contact be- 
tween them and the people, the whole thing 
ought to be a pushover. But we’re up against 
that ‘if only — ’ ” 

It was Martha who answered. “It bees very 
simple, John. You be linguist.” 

“Yes. And how does that — ” 

“Stappers will need interpreters. You will be 
one. From there on you must develop your own 
plans, but that will at littlest put you in touch 
with travelers." 

“But the State must have its own trained lin- 
guists who — ” 

Stephen barked with pleasure and took up the 
explanation. Since Farthing’s regularization of 
English, the perfect immutability of language had 
become part of the Stasis. A linguist now was 
a man who knew Farthing’s works by heart, and 
that was all. Oh, he might also be well acquainted 
with Zinsmeister German, or Tamayo y Sarate 
Spanish; but he knew nothing of general lin- 
guistic principles, which are apt to run com- 
pletely counter to the fine theories of these great 
synthesists, and he had never had occasion to 
learn adaptability to a new language. Faced by 
the probably strange and incomprehensible 
tongues of the remote future, the State linguist 
would be lost and helpless. 

It was common knowledge that only the Slan- 
duch had any true linguistic aptitude. Brought 
up to speak three languages — Farthing-ized 
English, their own archaic dialect, and the lan- 
guage of the country in which they resided — 



THE BARRIER 



their tongues were deft and adjustable. In or- 
dinary times, this aptitude was looked on with 
suspicion; ingenuity and cleverness in any field 
were obviously heretical threats to the Stasis. 
But now there would doubtless be a heavy de- 
mand for Slanduch interpreters, and there was 
no doubt that a little cautious wire pulling could 
land Brent the job. 

"And after that,” said Stephen, “as Martha 
rightly observes, you be on your own.” 

"Lead me to it,” grinned John Brent. 

“Isn’t that Starvel?” Brent demanded. 

Stephen paused and looked at the man on the 
other mobile walk. “So it bees indeed.” 

“The Stappers must have released him. Shall 
we — ” 

The man had noticed them and now crossed 
over. “George!” Stephen cried. “Cosmos! but 
it rejoices my heart to see you again.” 

George Starvel held himself aloof and glanced 
suspiciously at Brent. "I wished to speak to you, 
Stephen, only to tell you that I will not see you 
again.” 

“George!” 

"Stasis bees perfect, Stephen. Your ideas for 
some little time deluded me, but now I know. 
Cosmos bees all-perfect and his perfection lies in 
his Stasis. If ever again you try to persuade 
me of lies to contrary, I will have to advise Stap- 
pers. Good-by." And he had left them. 

Brent looked after him in amazement. “He 
meant that. He was perfectly sincere." 

"I know. He haves haved his mind changed. 
He believes what haves been forced upon him, 
but he believes it honestly. It bees sad. He beed 
most vigorous and active Seepy I have knowed 
since Alex.” 

Stephen frowned. "It bees hard to explain. 
But most of rebels against Stasis come from old 
families holding old beliefs. Many, like me, 
be Christians, and some be Seepies. I do not 
know myself all their beliefs, but they belong 
to schism of Mark." 

Brent contemplated this statement for a mo- 
ment, and then burst into a loud guffaw. "By 
Hobson and Jobson, this is sweet! Schism of 
Mark, Mark schism, Marxism. Seepy, C. P., Com- 
munist Party. And right in there fighting shoul- 
der to shoulder with the Christians!” His face 
became graver. "And let’s remember one thing, 
Stephen. They can change the mind of an in- 
dividual. But when it comes to thousands, and 
tens of thousands — it may be their own minds 
that’ll change.” 

“Amen,” said Stephen. It was the only time 
Brent ever heard him utter a characteristically 
Christian phrase. 



The rabbitty little State linguist received Brent 
effusively. “Ah, thank Cosmos!” he gasped. 
"Travelers be driving me mad! Such gibberish 
you have never heared! Such irregularities! 
Frightful! It bees shocking ! You be Slanduch?” 

“I be. I have speaked several languages all 
my life. I can even speak pre-Zinsmeister Ger- 
man.” And he began to recite Die Lorelei. 
"Die Luft ist kiihl und es dunkelt, und ruhig 
fliesst der Rhein — ” 

“Terrible! Ist! Such vile irregularity! And 
articles! But come, young man. We’ll see what 
you can do with these temporal barbarians!” 

There were three travelers in the room Brent 
entered, with -the shocked linguist and two rod- 
ded Stappers in attendance. One of the three 
was the woman he had noticed in that first cata- 
clysmic instant of arrival, a strapping Amazonic 
blonde who looked as though she could break any 
two unarmed Stappers with her bare fingers. An- 
other was a neat little man with a curly and 
minute forked beard and restless hands. The 
third — 

The third was hell to describe. They were 
all dressed now in the conventional robes of the 
Stasis, but even in these familiar garments he 
was clearly not quite human. If man is a feather- 
less biped, then this was a man; but men do not 
usually have greenish skin with vestigial scales 
and a trace of a gill-opening behind each ear. 

“Ask each of them three things," the linguist 
instructed Brent. “When he comes from, what 
his name bees, and what be his intentions.” 

Brent picked Tiny Beard as the easiest-looking 
start. “O. K. You!” He pointed, and the man 
stepped forward. "What part of time do you 
come from?” 

“A pox o’ thee, sirrah, and the goodyears take 
thee! An thou wouldst but hearken to me, thou 
might’st learn all.” 

The State linguist moaned. “You hear, young 
man? How can one interpret such jargon?” 

Brent smiled. “It bees O. K. This bees sim- 
ply English as it beed speaked thousand years 
ago. This man must have beed aiming at earlier 
time and prepared himself. . . . Thy pardon, sir. 
These kerns deem all speech barbaric save that 
which their own conceit hath evolved. Bear with 
me, and all will be well.” 

“Spoken like a true knight!” the traveler ex- 
claimed. "Forgive my rash words, sir. Surely 
my good daemon hath led thee hither. Thou 
wouldst know — ” 

“Whence comest thou?” 

"From many years hence. Thousands upon 
thousands of summers have yet to run their course 
ere I — ” 

“Forgive me, sir; but of that much we are 
aware. Let us be precise.” 



24 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“When then, marry, sir, ’tis from the fifth 
century.” 

Brent frowned. But to attempt to understand 
the gentleman’s system of dating would take too 
much time at the moment. “And thy name, sir?” 
“Kruj, sir. Or an thou wouldst be formal and 
courtly, Kruj Krujil Krujilar. But let Kruj 
suffice thee.” 

“And what most concerneth these gentlemen 
here is the matter of thine intentions. What are 
thy projects in this our earlier world?” 

“My projects?” Kruj coughed. “Sir, in thee 
I behold a man of feeling, of sensibility, a man 
to whom one may speak one’s mind. Many proj- 
ects have I in good sooth, most carefully projected 
for me by the Zhurmandril. Much must I study 
in these realms of the great Elizabeth — though 
'sblood! I know not how they seem so different 
from my conceits! But one thing above all else 
do I covet. I would to the Mermaid Tavern." 

Brent grinned. “I fear me, sir, that we must 
talk at greater length. Much hast thou mistaken 
and much must I make clear to thee. But first 
I must talk with these others.” 

Kruj retired, frowning and plucking at his 
shred of beard. Brent beckoned forward the 
woman. She strode forth so vigorously that both 
Steppers bared their rods. 

“Madam,” Brent ventured tentatively, “what 
part of time do you come from?” 

“Evybuy taws so fuy,” she growled. “Bu I 
unnasta. Wy cachoo unnasta me?’’ 

Brent laughed. “Is that all that’s the trouble? 
You don’t mind if I go on talking like this, do 
you?” 

“Naw. You taw howeh you wanna, slonsoo 
donna like I dih taw stray.” 

Fascinating, Brent thought. All final conso- 
nants lost, and many others. Vowels corrupted 
along lines indicated in twentieth-century collo- 
quial speech. Consonants sometimes restored in 
liaison as in French. 

“What time do you come from, then?” 
“Twenny-ni twenny-fie. N were am I now?" 
“Twenty-four seventy-three. And your name, 
madam?” 

“Mimi.” 

Brent had an incongruous vision of this giantess 
dying operatically in a Paris garret. “So. And 
your intentions here?" 

“Ai gonno intenchuns. Juh wanna see wha 

go" 

“You will, madam, I assure you. And now — ” 
He beckoned to the green-skinned biped, who 
advanced with a curious lurching motion like a 
deep-sea diver. 

“And you, sir. When do you come from?" 
“Ya studier langue earthly. Vyerit todo langue 
isos. Ou comprendo wie govorit people.” 

Brent was on the ropes and groggy. The fa- 



miliarity of some of the words made the entire 
speech even more incomprehensible. “Says 
which?" he gasped. 

The green man exploded. “Ou existier nada 
but dolts, cochons, duraki v this terre? Nikovo 
parla langue earthly? Potztausend Sapperment 
en la leche de tu madre and I do mean you!” 

Brent reeled. But even reeling he saw the 
disapproving frown of the State linguist and the 
itching fingers of the Stappers. He faced the 
green man calmly and said with utmost courtesy, 
“ ’Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and 
gimble over the rivering waters of the hither- 
andthithering waters of pigeons on the grass alas. 
Thank you, sir." He turned to the linguist. “He 
says he won’t talk.” 

Brent wrote in the never-to-be-read journal: 
It was Martha again who solved my green man 
for me. She pointed out that he was patently 
extraterrestrial. (Apparently Nakamura’s Law of 
Spacial Acceleration is as false as Charnwood's 
Law of Temporal Metabolism.) The vestigial 
scales and gills might well indicate Venus as his 
origin. He must come from some far distant 
future when the earth is overrun by inhabitants of 
other planets and terrestrial culture is all but 
lost. He had prepared himself for time travel 
by studying the speech of earth — langue earthly 
— reconstructed from some larger equivalent of 
the Rosetta Stone, but made the mistake of think- 
ing that there was only one earthly speech, just 
as we tend imaginatively to think of Martian or 
Venusian as a single language. As a result, he’s 
talking all earthly tongues at once. Martha sees 
a marked advantage in this, even more than in 
Mimi’s corrupt dialect — 

“Thou, sir,” said Brent to Kruj on his next 
visit, “art a linguist. Thou knowest speech and 
his nature. To wit, I would wager that thou 
couldst with little labor understand this woman 
here. One who hath so mastered our language 
in his greatest glory — " 

The little man smirked. “I thank thee. sir. In 
sooth since thou didst speak with her yestereven 
I have already made some attempts at converse 
with her." 

Mimi joined in. “He taws fuy, bu skina cue.” 

“Very well then. I want you both, and thee in 
particular, Kruj, to hearken to this green-skinned 
varlet here. Study his speech, sir, and learn what 
thou may’st.” 

“Wy?” Mimi demanded belligerently. 

“The wench speaks sooth. Wherefore should 
we so?” 

“You’ll find out. Now let me at him.” 

It was slow, hard work, especially with the 
linguist and the Stappers ever on guard. It 



THE BARRIER 



25 




meant rapid analysis of the possible origin of 
every word used by the Venusian, and a laborious 
painstaking attempt to find at random words that 
he would understand. But in the course of a 
week both Brent and the astonishingly adaptable 
Kruj had learned enough of this polyglot langue 
earthly to hold an intelligible conversation. Mimi 
was hopelessly lost, but Kruj occasionally ex- 
plained matters to her in her own corrupt speech, 
which he had mastered by now as completely as 
Elizabethan. 

It had been Stephen’s idea that any project 
for the liberation of the time travelers must wait 
until more was learned of their nature. "You be 
man of good will, John. We trust you. You 
and mans like you can save us. But imagine 
that some travelers come from worlds far badder 
even than ours. Suppose that they come seeking 
only power for themselves? Suppose that they 



come from civilization of cruelty and terror and 
be even more evil than Stappers?” 

It was a wise point, and it was Martha who 
saw the solution in the Venusian’s amazing tongue. 
In that milange of languages, Brent could talk 
in front of the linguist and the Stappers with 
complete safety. Kruj and the Venusian, who 
must have astonishing linguistic ability to master 
the speech of another planet even so perversely, 
could discuss matters with the other travelers, 
and could tell him anything he needed to know 
before all the listening guards of the State. 

All this conversation was, of course, theoreti- 
cally guided by the linguist. He gave questions 
to Brent and received plausible answers, never 
dreaming that his questions had not been asked. 

As far as his own three went, Brent was sat- 
isfied as to the value of their liberation. Mimi 
was not bright, but she seemed to mean well and 



26 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



claimed to have been a notable warrior in her 
own matriarchal society. It was her feats in 
battle and exploration that had caused her to be 
chosen for time travel. She should be in some 
respects a useful ally. 

Kruj was indifferent to the sorry state of the 
world until Brent mentioned the tasteless and 
servile condition of the arts. Then he was all 
afire to overthrow the Stasis and bring about a 
new renaissance. (Kruj, Brent learned, had been 
heading for the past to collect material for an 
historical epic on Elizabethan England, a frag- 
ment of prehistoric civilization that had always 
fascinated him.) 

Of the three, Nikobat, the Venusian, seemed 
the soundest and most promising. To him, ter- 
restrial civilization was a closed book, but a 
beautiful one. In the life and struggles of man 
he found something deep and moving. The aim 
of Nikobat in his own world had been to raise 
his transplanted Venusian civilization to the lev- 
els, spiritual and scientific, that had once been 
attained by earthly man, and it was to find the 
seed of inspiration to accomplish this that he 
had traveled back. Man degenerate, man self- 
complacent, man smug, shocked him bitterly, and 
he swore to exert his best efforts in the rousing. 

Brent was feeling not unpleased with himself 
as he left his group after a highly successful 
session. Kruj was accomplishing much among 
the other travelers and would have a nearly full 
report for him tomorrow. And once that report 
had been made, they could attempt Martha’s ex- 
traordinary scheme of rescue. He would not have 
believed it ordinarily possible; but both he and 
Stephen were coming to put more and more trust 
in the suggestions of the once scatter-brained 
Martha. Stephen’s own reports were more than 
favorable. The Underground was boring beau- 
tifully from within. The people of the State 
were becoming more and more restless and doubt- 
ing. Slowly these cattle were resuming the forms 
of men. 

Brent was whistling happily as he entered the 
apartment and called out a cheery “Hi!" to his 
friends. But they were not there. There was 
no one in the room but a white-clad Stapper, who 
smiled wolfishly as he rose from a chair and asked 
politely, “You be time traveler, be you not?” 

This was the most impressive Stapper that 
Brent had yet seen — impressive even aside from 
the startling nature of his introductory remark. 
The others, even the one he had kicked in the 
face, or the one who killed Alex. Brent had 
thought of simply as so many Stappers. This 
one was clearly an individual. His skin was ex- 
ceptionally dark and smooth and hairless, and 
two eyes so black that they seemed all pupil 
glowed out of his face and dominated the room. 



Brent tried to seem casual, “Nonsense. I be 
Slanduch envoy from Germany, staying here with 
friends and doing linguistic service for State. 
Here bees my identification.” 

The Stapper hardly glanced at it. “I know 
all about your ‘linguistic services,’ John Brent. 
And I know about machine finded in deserted 
warehouse. It beed only machine not breaked 
by Barrier. Therefore it corned not from Future, 
but from Past.” 

“So? We have travelers from both directions? 
Poor devil will never be able to get back to 
own time then.” He wondered if this Stapper 
were corruptible; he could do with a drink of 
bond. 

“Yes, he bees losed here in this time like others. 
And he foolishly works with them to overthrow 
Stasis.” 

“Sad story. But how does it concern me? My 
papers be in order. Surely you can see that I 
be what I claim?” 

The Stapper's eyes fixed him sharply. “You 
be clever, John Brent. You doubtless traveled 
naked and clothed yourself as citizen of now to 
escape suspicion. That bees smartest way. How 
you getted papers I do not know. But communi- 
cation with German Slanduch cans disprove your 
story. You be losed, Brent, unless you be sensi- 
ble.” 

“Sensible? What the hell do you mean by 
that?” 

The Stapper smiled slowly. “Article,” he 
drawled. 

“I be sorry. But that proves nothing. You 
know how difficult it bees for us Slanduch to keep 
our speech entirely regular." 

“I know.” Suddenly a broad grin spread across 
the Stapper’s face and humanized it. “I have 
finded this Farthing speech hellishly difficult my- 
self.” 

“You mean you, too, be Slanduch?" 

The Stapper shook his head. “I, too, Brent, be 
traveler.” 

Brent was not falling for any such trap. “Ri- 
diculous! How canned traveler be Stapper?" 

“How canned traveler be Slanduch envoy? I, 
too, traveled naked, and man whose clothes and 
identification I stealed beed Stapper. I have 
finded his identity most useful." 

“I don’t believe you." 

“You be stubborn, Brent. How to prove •’* 

He gestured at his face. “Look at my skin. In 
my century facial hair haves disappeared; we 
have breeded away from it. Where in this time 
could you find skin like that?" 

“A sport. Freak of chromosomes." 

The black eyes grew even larger and more glow- 
ing. “Brent, you must believe me. This bees 
no trap for you. I need you. You and I, we can 
do great things. But how to convince you” he 



THE BARRIER 



27 



snapped his fingers. “I know!” He was still 
for a moment. The vast eyes remained opened 
but somehow veiled, as though secret calculations 
were going on behind them. His body shivered. 
For a moment of strange delusion Brent thought 
he could see the chair through the Stapper’s body. 
Then it was real and solid again. 

The Stapper’s eyes resumed their light, and 
he looked about the room expectantly for a mo- 
ment. “Delay,” he muttered disappointedly. 
“But no matter. In a moment — ” 

“What bees this?” 

“My name,” said the Stapper, with the patience 
of a professor addressing a retarded class, “bees 
Bokor. I come from tenth century after con- 
summation of terrestrial unity, which bees, I be- 
lieve, forty-third reckoning from date of birth 
of Christian god. I have traveled, not with ma- 
chine, but solely by use of Vunmurd formula, 
and, therefore, I alone of all travelers stranded 
here can still move. Hysteresis of Barrier arrests 
me, but can not destroy my formula as it shat- 
ters machines.” 

“Pretty story.” 

“I have sended myself back to Barrier again 
by formula, but trip from Barrier to now seems 
longer for me this time. I — ” He broke off as 
the door opened. “Ah,” he said. “Here I be!” 
The Stapper in the doorway fixed Brent with 
his glowing black eyes and said, "Now do you 
believe that I be traveler?” 

Brent gawped from one identical man to the 
other. The one in the doorway went on. “I 
need you.” 

“It isn't possible. It’s a gag. You’re twin 
Stappers, and you’re trying to — ” 

Bokor in the chair said, “Do I have to do it 
again?” 

Bokor-Sub-One in the doorway 6aid, “I have 
hitfced Barrier twice. Therefore I exist twice in 
that one point of time. Therefore each of those 
two continues into present.” 

Brent said, “You may both be Stappers. You 
may turn out to be a whole damned regiment of 
identical multiple births. I don’t give a damn; 
I want some bond. How about you boys?” 

The two Bokors downed their drinks and 
frowned. “Weak,” they said. 

Brent shook his head feebly. “All right. We’ll 
skip that. Now what the sweet hell do you need 
me for?” 

Bokor closed his eyes and seemed to doze. 
Bokor-Sub-One said, "You have plans to liberate 
travelers and overthrow Stasis. As Stapper I 
have learned much. I worked on changing mind 
of one of your Underground friends.” 

"And you want to throw your weight in with 
us? Good, we can use a Stapper. Or two. But 
won’t the Chief of Stappers be bothered when he 



finds he has two copies of one man?” 

“He will never need to see more than one. Yes, 
I want to help you — up to a point. We will free 
travelers. But you be innocent, Brent. We will 
not overthrow Stasis. We will maintain it — as 
ours.” 

Brent frowned. "I’m not sure I get you. And 
I don’t think I like it if I do.” 

"Do not be fool, Brent. We have opportunity 
never before gived to man, we travelers. We 
come into world where already exists complete 
and absolute State control, but used stupidly and 
to no end. Among us all we have great knowl- 
edge and power. We be seed sowed upon fallow 
ground. We can spring up and engulf all about 
us.” The eyes glowed with black intensity. “We 
take this Stasis and mold it to our own wishes. 
These dolts who now be slaves of Cosmos will 
be slaves of us. Stapper, whose identity I have, 
bees third in succession to Chief of Stappers. 
Chief and other two will be killed accidentally 
in revolt of travelers. With power of all Stappers 
behind me, I make you Head of State. Between 
us we control this State absolutely.” 

“Nuts,” Brent snorted. "The State’s got too 
damned much control already. What this world 
needs is a return to human freedom and striv- 
ing.” 

“Innocent,” Bokor-Sub-One repeated scorn- 
fully. "Who gives damn what world needs? Only 
needs which concern man be his own, and his 
strongest need bees always for power. Here it 
bees gived us. Other States be stupid and self- 
complacent like this. We know secrets of many 
weapons, we travelers. We turn our useless scho- 
lastic laboratories over to their production. Then 
we attack other States and subject them to us 
as vassals. And then the world itself bees ours, 
and all its riches. Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, 
Hitler, Gospodinov, Tirazhul — never in- its past 
or future haves world knowed nor will it know 
conquerors like us.” 

"You can go to hell,” said Brent lightly but 
firmly. “All two of you.” 

"Do not be too clever, my friend. Remember 
that I be Stapper and can — ” 

"You be two Stappers, which may turn out to 
be a little awkward. But you could be a regi- 
ment of Stappers, and I still wouldn’t play ball. 
Your plan stinks, Bokor, and you know what 
you can do with it.” 

Bokor-Sub-One took the idiom literally. “In- 
deed I do know, Brent. It willed have beed easier 
with your aid, but even without you it will suc- 
ceed.” He drew out his rod and contemplated 
it reflectively. “No,” he murmured, "there bees 
no point to taking you in and changing your mind. 
You be harmless to me, and your liberation of 
travelers will be useful.” 

The original Bokor opened his eyes. “We will 



28 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



meet again, Brent. And you will see what one 
man with daring mind can accomplish in this 
world.” Bokor and Bokor-Sub-One walked to 
the door and turned. “And for bond,” they spoke 
in unison, in parody of the conventional Stap- 
per’s phrase, “State thanks you." 

Brent stood alone in the room, but the black- 
eyed domination of the two Bokors lingered about 
him. The plan was so damned plausible, so likely 
to succeed if put into operation. Man has al- 
ways dreamed of power. But damn it, man has 
always dreamed of love, too, and of the rights 
of his fellow man. The only power worthy of 
man is the power of all mankind struggling to- 
gether toward a goal of unobtainable perfection. 

And what could Bokor do against Kruj and 
Mimi and Nikobat and the dozens of others that 
Kruj reported sympathetic? 

Nevertheless there had been a certainty in those 
vast glowing eyes that the duple Bokor knew 
just what he could do. 

The release of the travelers was a fabulous epi- 
sode. Stephen had frowned and Brent had 
laughed when Martha said simply, “Only per- 
son who haves power to release them bees Head 
of State by will of Cosmos. Very well. We will 
persuade him to do so." But she insisted, and 
she had been so uncannily right ever since the 
explosion of the second Barrier that at last, 
when Kruj had made his final report, Brent ac- 
companied her on what he was certain was the 
damnedest fool errand he’d got himself into yet. 

Kruj’s report was encouraging. There were 
two, perhaps three among the travelers who had 
Bokorian ideas of taking over the State for their 
own purposes. But these were far outweighed 
by the dozens who saw the tremendous possi- 
bilities of a reawakening of mankind. The libera- 
tion was proved a desirable thing; but why should 
the Head of State so readily loose these disrupt- 
ers upon his Stasis? 

Getting to see the Head of State took the best 
part of a day. There were countless minor offi- 
cials to be interviewed, all of them guarded by 
Stappers who looked upon the supposed Slan- 
duch envoy with highly suspicious eyes. But 
one by one, with miraculous consistency, these 
officials beamed upon Brent’s errand and sent him 
on with the blessing of Cosmos. 

“You wouldn’t like to pinch me?" he mur- 
mured to Martha after the fifth such success. 
“This works too easy. It can’t be true." 

Martha looked at him blankly and said, “I don’t 
understand it. But what be we doing here? What 
be we going to say?” 

Brent jumped. “Hey! Look, madam. This 
was all your idea to start with. You were going 
to talk the Head of State into — And now you 
say, ‘What be we going to say?’ If you don’t — ’’ 



But a Stapper was already approaching to con- 
duct them to the next office, and Brent fell silent. 

It was in the anteroom of the Head of State 
that they met Bokor. Ju6t one of him this time. 
He smiled confidentially at Brent and said, 
"Shocking accident today. Stapper beed killed 
in fight with prisoner who beed to have his mind 
changed. Odd thing — Stapper beed second in 
succession to Chief of Stappers.” 

“You’re doing all right,” said Brent. 

“I be curious to see what you plan here. How 
do you hope to achieve this liberation? I talked 
with Head of State yesterday and he bees strongly 
opposed.” 

“Brother,” said Brent sincerely, “I wish to Cos- 
mos I knew." 

In a moment Bokor ushered them into the sanc- 
tum sanctorum of the Head of State. This great 
dignitary was at first glance a fine figure of a man, 
tall and well built and noble. It was only on sec- 
ond glance that you noticed the weak lips and 
the horribly empty eyes. The stern and hawk- 
nosed Chief of Stappers stood beside him. 

“Well!” the latter snapped. “Speak your 
piece!" 

Brent faltered and glanced at Martha. She 
looked as vacant and helpless as ever she had 
before the Barrier. He could only fumble on and 
pray that her unrevealed scheme would material- 
ize. 

“Ab you know, sir," he began, “I, as interpreter, 
have beed in very close contact with travelers. 
Having in my mind good of Cosmos and wishing 
to see it as rich and fully developed as possible, 
it seems to me that much may be accomplished 
by releasing travelers so that they may communi- 
cate with people.” He gulped and swore at him- 
self for venturing such an idiotic request. 

The empty eyes of the Head of State lit up 
for a moment. “Excellent idea," he boomed in 
a dulcet voice. “You have permission of State 
and Cosmos. Chief, I give orders that all trav- 
elers be released.” 

Brent heard Bokor’s incredulous gasp behind 
him. The Chief of Stappers muttered “Cosmos!” 
fervently. The Head of State looked around him 
for approval and then reverted to formal vacancy. 

“I thank State,” Brent managed to say, “for 
this courageous move." 

“What bees courageous?" the Head demanded. 
His eyes shifted about nervously. “What have 
I doed? What have I sayed?” 

The Chief of Stappers bowed. “You have pro- 
claimed freedom of travelers. May I, too, con- 
gratulate you on wisdom of action?” He turned 
to Bokor. “Go and give necessary orders.” 

Brent saw the dazed faces of Bokor and Martha 
and wondered if his own looked quite so ridicu- 
lously incredulous. That the Head of State and 
the Chief of Stappere should sanction a policy 



THE BARRIER 



that any dolt could see must inevitably be fatal 
to the Stasis of Cosmos — It was mad. It was a 
dream. But it was certainly a damned agreeable 
one. 

Martha did not say a word till they were out- 
side on the moving sidewalk again. Then she 
asked, “What happened? Why in Cosmos’ name 
doed he consent?” 

"Madam, you have me there. But you should 
know. It was all your idea.” 

Understanding came back to her face. “Of 
course. It bees time now that you know all about 
me. But wait till we be back in apartment. 
Stephen haves right to know this, too. And 
Martha,” she added. 

That oral postscript was too much for Brent. 
When you begin talking of yourself as a third 
party — 

“Come on home, madam,” he said. "You’ll feel 
better." 

They had left Bokor behind them in the sanc- 
tum, and they met Bokor outside the building. 
That did not worry Brent, but he was admittedly 
perturbed when he passed a small group of 
people just off the sidewalk and noticed that its 
core was a third Bokor. He pulled Martha off 
the moving path and drew near the group. 

Bokor was not being a Stapper this time. He 
was in ordinary iridescent robes. “I tell you 
I know,” he was insisting vigorously. “I am . . . 
I be Slanduch from State of South America, and 
I can tell you deviltry they be practicing there. 
Armament factories twice size of laboratories of 
Cosmos. Bees this for nothing? They plan to 
destroy us; I know.” 

A Stapper shoved his way past Brent. “Here 
now!” he growled. "What bees going on here?" 

Bokor hesitated. "Nothing, sir. I was only — ” 

“Was, huh?” 

"Pardon, sir. Bead. I be Slanduch, you see, 
and — ” 

One of the men in the crowd interrupted. "He 
beed telling us what all State needs to know — 
plans of State of South America to invade and 
destroy us.” 

"Hm-m-m!” the Stapper ejaculated. “You be 
right, man. That sounds like something we all 
need to know. Go on, you.” 

Bokor resumed his rumor mongering, and the 
Stapper lent it official endorsement by his listen- 
ing silence. Brent moved to get a glimpse of 
the Stapper’s face. His guess was right. It was 
another Bokor. 

This significant byplay had delayed them 
enough so that Brent’s three travelers had 
reached the apartment before them. When they 
arrived, Stephen was deep in a philosophical dis- 
cussion with the Venusian of the tragic nobility 



of human nature, while Kruj and Mimi were ex- 
perimenting with bond. Their respective civi- 
lizations could not have been markedly alcoholic; 
Kruj had reached the stage of sweeping and im- 
passioned gestures, while Mimi beamed at him 
and interposed an occasional irrelevant giggle. 

All three had discarded the standardized robes 
of the Stasis and resumed, in this friendly pri- 
vacy, the clothes in which they had arrived — 
Kruj a curiously simplified and perverted version 
of the ruffled court costume of the Elizabethan 
era he had hoped to reach, Mimi, the startling 
armor of an unfamiliar metal which was her uni- 
form as Amazon warrior, and Nikobat a simple 
bronze-colored loincloth against which his green 
skin assumed a certain strange beauty. 

Brent introduced Martha’s guests to their host- 
ess and went on, “Now for a staff meeting of 
G. H. Q. We’ve got to lay our plans carefully, 
because I warn you we're up against some stiff 
opposition. There’s one other traveler who — ” 
"One moment," said Martha’s voice. "Shouldn't 
you introduce me, too?” 

“I beg your pardon, madam. I just finished 
that task of courtesy. And now — ” 

"I be sorry,” her voice went on. “You still do 
not understand. You introduced Martha, yes; 
but not me.” 

Stephen turned to the travelers. “I must apolo- 
gize for my sister. She haves goed through queer 
experiences of late. She traveled with our friend 
John and meeted herself in her earlier life. I 
fear that shock has temporarily — and temporally 
— unbalanced her.” 

“Can none of you understand so simple thing?" 
the woman's voice pleaded. “I be simply using 
Martha’s voice as instrument of communication. 
I can just as easily — ■” 

“’Steeth!” Kruj exclaimed. “ 'Tis eke as easy 
and mayhap more pleasant to borrow this trav- 
eler’s voice from mine explications.” 

“Or,” Mimi added, “I cou taw li thih, but I do’ 
like ih vey muh.” 

Stephen’s eyes popped. “You mean that you 
be traveler without body?” 

“Got it in one,” Brent heard his own voice 
saying. "I can wander about any way I damned 
please. I picked the woman first because her 
nearly empty mind was easy to occupy, and I 
think I’ll go on using her. Brent here’s a little 
hard to keep under control.” 

Stephen nodded. “Then all good advice Martha 
haves beed giving us — ’’ 

"Bees mine, of course.” The bodiless traveler 
was back in Martha now. 

Brent gasped. “And now I see how you wangled 
the release of the travelers. You got us in by 
usurping the mind and speech of each of the minor 
officials we tackled, and then ousted the Head 



30 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



of State and Chief of Stappers to make them 
give their consent.” 

Martha nodded. “Exactly.” 

“This is going to be damned useful. And 
where do you come from, sir? Or is it madam?” 
“I come from future so far distant that even 
our Venusian friend here cannot conceive of it. 
And distinction between sir and madam bees 
then meaningless.” 

The dapper Kruj glanced at the hulking Ama- 
zon beside him. “ ’Twere pity,” he murmured. 

“And your intentions here, to go on with the 
State linguist’s questionnaire?” 

“My intentions? Listen, all of you. We can- 
not shape ends. Great patterns be shaped out- 
side of us and beyond us. I beed historian in 
my time. I know patterns of mankind even down 
to minute details. And I know that Stephen 
here bees to lead people of this Age of Smug- 
ness out of their stupidity and back to humanity. 

Stephen coughed embarrassedly. “I have no 
wish to lead. But for such cause man must do 
what he may." 

“That bees ultimate end of this section of pat- 
tern. That bees fixed. All that we travelers can 
do bees to aid him as wisely as we can and to 
make the details of the pattern as pleasingly 
beautiful as may be. And that we will do.” 
Stephen must have been so absorbed in this 
speech that his hearing was dulled. The door 
opened without warning, and Bokor entered. 
“’Swounds!” Kruj cried out. “A Stapper!” 
Stephen smiled. “Why fear Stappers? You be 
legally liberated." 

“Stapper, hell!” Brent snorted. “Well, Bokor? 
You still want to declare yourself in with your 
racket?” 

Bokor’s deep eyes swept the room. He smiled 
faintly. “I merely wished to show you some- 
thing, Brent. So that you know what you be up 
against. I have finded two young scientists dis- 
satisfied with scholastic routine of research for 
Cosmos. Now they work under my instructions, 
and they have malted for me — this." He held 
a bare rod in his hand. 

“So it’s a rod. So what next?” 

“But it bees different rod, Brent. It does not 
paralyze. It destroys.” The point of the rod wav- 
ered and covered in turn each individual in the 
room. “I want you to see what I can accomplish." 

“You suvvabih!” Mimi yelled and started to 
rise. Kruj restrained her. 

“State thanks you, madam, for making up 
my mind. I will demonstrate on you. Watch 
this, Brent, and realize what chance you have 
against me.” He pointed the rod firmly at Mimi. 
“Do something!” Martha screamed. 

It all happened at once, but Brent seemed to 
see it in slow motion even as he moved. Mimi 



lunged forward furiously and recklessly. Kruj 
dived for her feet and brought her to the floor 
out of the line of fire. At the same time Brent 
threw himself forward just as Bokor moved, so 
that the rod now pointed directly at Brent. He 
couldn’t arrest his momentum. He was headed 
straight at Bokor’s new instrument of death. And 
then the rod moved to Bokor’s own head. 

There was no noise, no flash. But Bokor’s 
body was lying on the floor, and the head was 
nowhere. 

“That beed hard,” said Martha’s voice. “I haved 
to stay in his mind long enough to actuate rod, 
but get out before death. Matter of fractions of 
seconds." 

“Nice work, sir-madam," Brent grunted. He 
looked down at the headless corpse. “But that 
was only one of him." 

Brent quoted in his journal: Love, but a day, 
and the world has changed ! A week, to be more 
exact, but the change is nonetheless sudden and 
impressive. 

Our nameless visitant from the future — they 
seem to need titles as little as sexes in that time 
— whom I have for convenience labeled Sirdam, 
has organized our plans about the central idea 
of interfering as little as possible — forcing the 
inhabitants of the Stasis to work out their own 
salvation. The travelers do not appear openly 
in this great change. We work through Stephen’s 
associates. 

The best single example to show the results 
we obtain is the episode of Professor Harrington, 
whose special department of so-called learning 
is the preservation of the Nakamura Law of 
Spacial Acceleration, which had so conclusively 
proved to the founders of the Stasis the impos- 
sibility of interplanetary travel. 

This fell obviously within Nikobat’s held. A 
young scientist affiliated with the Underground 
— a nephew, I have since learned, of Alex’s — . 
expounded the Nakamyra doctrine as he had 
learned and re-proved it. It took the Venusian 
less than five minutes to put his huger on the 
basic haw in the statement — the absolute omis- 
sion, in all calculations, of any consideration of 
galactic drift. Once this correction was applied 
to the Nakamura formulas, they stood revealed 
as the pure nonsense which, indeed, Nikobat's 
very presence proved them. 

It was not Nikobat but the young man who 
placed this evidence before Professor Harring- 
ton. The scene must have been classic. “I saw,” 
the young man later told us — they are all trying 

desperately to unlearn Farthing-ized English 

“his mouth fall open and gap spread across his 
face as wide as gap he suddenly hnded in uni- 
verse — the universe." 



THE BARRIER 



31 



For the professor was not stupid. He was sim- 
ply so conditioned from childhood to the accept- 
ance of the Stasis of Cosmos that he had never 
questioned it. Besides, he had doubtless had 
friends whose minds were changed when they 
speculated too far. 

Harrington’s eyes lit up after the first shock. 
He grabbed pencil and paper and furiously 
checked through the revised equations again and 
again. He then called in a half dozen of his best 
students and set them to what was apparently a 
routine exercise — interpolating variations for. ga- 
lactic drift in the Nakamura formulas. 

They ended as astonished as their instructor. 
The first one done stared incredulously at his re- 
sults and gasped, "Nakamura beed wrong!” 

One of them, horrified, destroyed his calcula- 
tions, saying, "This bees against Stasis.” 

The professor smiled. "Not against, my boy. 
It bees beyond Cosmos." 

That was typical. The sheep are ready to be 
roused, each in his individual way. Kruj has 
been training men to associate with the writers 
of the Stasis. The man’s knowledge of literature 
of all periods, and especially of his beloved Eliza- 
bethan Age. is phenomenal and his memory some- 
thing superhuman. And four writers out of five 
who hear his disciples discourse on the joys of 
creative language and quote from the Elizabethan 
dramatists and the King James Bible will never 
be content again to write Stasis propaganda for 
the sollies or the identically bound books of the 
State libraries. 

I have myself been contributing a fair amount 
to the seduction of the world by teaching cooks. 
I was never in my own time acknowledged as better 
than a fair-to-middling nonprofessional, but here 
I might be Escoffier or Brillat-Savarin. We steal 
plants and animals from the scientific laboratories, 
and in our hands they become vegetables and 
meat; and many a man in the street, who doesn’t 
give a damn if his science is false and his arts 
synthetic, has suddenly realized that he owes 
the State a grudge for feeding him on concen- 
trates. 

The focus of everything is Stephen. It's hard 
to analyze why. Each of us travelers has found 
among the U ndergrounders someone far more able 
in his own special field, yet all of us, travelers 
and Under grounders alike, unquestioningly ac- 
knowledge Stephen as our leader. It may be the 
sheer quiet kindliness and goodness of his nature. 
It may be that he and Alex, in their organization 
of this undercover group of instinctive rebels, 
were the Grst openly to admit that the Stasis was 
inhuman and to do something about it. But from 
whatever cause, we all come to depend more and 
more on the calm reliability of Stephen. 

Nikobat says — 



Brent broke off as Kruj Krujil Krujilar stag- 
gered into the room. The little man was no longer 
dapper. His robes were tattered, and their iri- 
descence was overlaid with the solid red of blood. 

He panted his first words in his own tongue, 
then recovered himself. “We must act apace, 
John. Where is Stephen?” 

“At Underground quarters, I think. But what’s 
happened?" 

“I was nearing the building where they do 
house us travelers when I beheld hundreds of 
people coming along the street. Some wore our 
robes, some wore Stappers’. And they all — ” 
He shuddered. “They all had the same face — 
a brown hairless face with black eyes.” 

Brent was on his feet. “Bokor!” The man 
had multiplied himself into a regiment. One 
man who was hundreds — why not thousands? 
millions? — could indeed be such a conqueror as 
the world had never known. “What happened?” 
“They entered the building. I knew that I 
could do nothing there, and came to find you and 
Stephen and the bodiless one. But as I came 
along the street, lo! on every corner there was 
yet another of that face, and always urging the 
people to maintain the Stasis and destroy the 
travelers. I was recognized. By good hap those 
who set upon me had no rods, but ’sbody! ’Twas 
a close thing that I escaped with my life.” 

Brent thought quickly. “Martha is with Ste- 
phen, so Sirdam is probably there, too. Go to 
him at once and warn him. I’m going to the trav- 
elers’ building and see what's happened. Meet 
you at the headquarters as soon as I can.” 

Kruj hesitated. “Mimi — ’’ 

“I’ll bring her with me if I can. Get going.” 

The streets were mad. Wild throngs jammed 
the moving roadways. Somewhere in the dis- 
tance mountainous flames leaped up and their 
furious glitter gleamed back from the eyes of 
the mob. 

And those were not the deeply glowing black 
eyes of multitudinous Bokors. These were the 
ordinary citizens of the Stasis, no longer cattle, 
or rather cattle stampeded and raging. 

A voice blared seemingly out of the heavens. 
Brent recognized the public address system used 
for vital State messages. “Revolt of travelers 
haves spreaded to amphitheater of Cosmos. 
Flames lighted by travelers now attack sacred 
spot. People of Cosmos: Destroy travelers!” 
“The Reichstag fire!” Brent muttered. “Tech- 
nique doesn’t change much — ” If only he could 
avoid running into a Bokor. There was nothing 
to mark him superficially as a traveler. He pushed 
along with the mob, shouting as rabidly as any 
other. He could make no headway. He was 
borne along on these foaming human waves. 



32 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Then in front of him he saw three Bokors 
pushing against the mob. If they spied him — 
His hands groped along the wall. Just as a Bokor 
looked his way, he found what he was seeking — 
one of the spying niches of the Stappers. He 
slipped into the false wall in safety. 

He peered out cautiously for a moment to es- 
cape. From the next door he saw a man emerge 
whom he knew by sight — a leading dramatist of 
the sollies, who had promised to be an eventual 
convert of Kruj’s disciples. Three citizens of the 
mob halted him as he stepped forth. 

“What bees your name?” 

“Where be you going?” 

“When do you come from?” 

“Answer every man directly.” 

The solly writer hesitated. “I be going to am- 
phitheater. Speaker have sayed — ” 

“When do you come from?” 

"Why, from now.” 

“What bees your name?” 

“John — ” 

“Hal” the first citizen yelled. “Stappers have 
telled us to find this John. Tear him to pieces; 
he bees traveler.” 

“No, truly. I be no traveler; I be writer of 
sollies. I be of now.” 

One of the citizens chortled cruelly. “Tear 
him for his bad sollies!" 

There was one long scream — 

The smugness of the Stasis had been inhuman. 
Stephen and the travelers had sought to make 
the citizens human again in the noblest traditions 
of man’s striving. But there was another manner 
of being human, and Bokor had found and roused 
it. 

Fire breeds fire, literally as well as metaphori- 
cally. The dwelling of the travelers was ablaze 
when Brent reached it. A joyous mob cheered 
and gloated before it. 

Brent started to push his way through, but a 
hand touched his arm and a familiar voice whis- 
pered, “Achtung! Ou vkhodit.” 

He interpreted the warning and let the Venusian 
draw him aside. Nikobat rapidly explained in 
Brent’s own speech. 

“The Stappers came and subdued the whole 
crowd with paralyzing rods. They took them 
away — God knows what they’ll do with them. 
There’s no one in there now; the fire’s just a 
gesture.” The red flames glittered on the green 
skin. 

“But you — How did you — ” 

“My nerve centers don’t react the same. I lay 
doggo and got away. Mimi escaped, too; her 
armor has deflecting power. I think she’s gone 
to warn the Underground.” 



“Then come on.” 

“Don’t stay too close to me,” Nikobat warned. 
“They’ll recognize me as a traveler; stay out of 
range of rods aimed at me. And here. I took 
these from a Stapper I strangled. This one is 
a paralyzing rod; the other’s an annihilator.” 

The next half-hour was a nightmare — a montage 
of flames and blood and sweating bodies of hate. 
The Stasis of Stupidity was becoming a Stasis 
of Cruelty. For a moment Brent wondered if 
he could find where the Stappers had taken his 
machine. That Derringer model was the only 
machine unshattered — the only one that, though 
still helpless against the Barrier, could at least 
take him forward to what might be a better world 
— Kruj’s esthetic paradise or even Mimi’s matri- 
archy. But he thought of Stephen and Martha, 
and he pushed on toward the Underground head- 
quarters. 

Twice groups of citizens stopped him. They 
were unarmed; Bokor wisely kept weapons to 
himself, knowing that the fangs and claws of 
an enraged mob are enough. The first group 
Brent left paralyzed. The second time he con- 
fused his weapons. He had not meant to kill, 
but he could not regret it. 

He did not confuse his weapons when he bagged 
a brace of Bokors. But what did the destruction 
of two matter? He fought his way on, finally 
catching up with Nikobat at th'eir goal. As they 
met, the voice boomed once more from the air. 
“Important! New Chief of Stappers announces 
that offices of Chief of Stappers and Head of 
State be henceforth maked one. Under new con- 
trol. travelers will be wiped out and Stasis pre- 
served. Then on to South America for glory of 
Cosmos!” 

Brent shuddered. “And we started out so beau- 
tifully on our renaissance!” 

Nikobat shook his head. “But the bodiless 
traveler said that Stephen was to destroy the 
Stasis. This multiple villain cannot change what 
has happened.” 

“Can’t he? We’re taking no chances.” 

The headquarters of the Underground was in- 
appositely in a loft. The situation helped. The 
trap entrance was unnoticeable from below and 
had gone unheeded by the mobs. Brent delivered 
the proper raps, and the trap slid open and 
dropped a ladder. Quickly he and the Venusian 
mounted. 

The loft was a sick bay. A half-dozen wounded 
members of Stephen’s group lay groaning on the 
floor. With them was Kruj. Somewhere the lit- 
tle man had evaded the direct line of an anni- 
hilator, but lost his hand. Blood was seeping 
out of his bandages, and Mimi, surprisingly femi- 
nine and un-Amazonic, held his unconscious head 
in her lap. 



THE BARRIER 



33 



“You don’t seem to need warning,” Brent ob- 
served tersely. 

Stephen shook his head sadly. “We be trapped 
here. Here we be safe for at littlest small while. 
If we go out — ” 

Brent handed him his rods. “You’re the man 
we’ve got to save, Stephen. You know what 
Sirdam’s said — it all depends on you. Use these 
to protect yourself, and we'll make a dash for 
it. If we can lose ourselves in the mob as ordi- 
nary citizens, there’s a chance of getting away 
with it. "Or” — he turned to Martha-Sirdam — 
“have you any ideas?” 

"Yes. But only as latest resort.” 

Nikobat was peering out the window. “It’s 
the last resort now,” he said. “There’s a good 
fifty of those identical Stappers outside, and 
they’re headed here. They act as though they 
know what this is.” 

Brent was looking at Stephen, and he saw a 
strange thing. Stephen’s face was expressionless, 
but somewhere behind his eyes Brent seemed to 
sense a struggle. Stephen's body trembled with 
an effort of will, and then his eyes were clear 
again. "No,” he said distinctly. “You do not 
need to control me. I understand. You be right. 
I will do as you say.” And he lifted the anni- 
hilator rod. 

Brent started forward, but his muscles did not 
respond to his commands. Force his will though 
he might, he stood still. It was the bodiless trav- 
eler who held him, he realized, held him motion- 
less to watch Stephen place the rod to his temple. 

“This bees goodest thing that I can do for 
mans,” said Stephen simply. Then his headless 
corpse thumped on the floor. 

Brent was released. He dashed forward, but 
vainly. There was nothing men could do for 
Stephen now. Brent let out a choking gasp of 
pain and sorrow. 

Then the astonished cries of the Undergrounders 
recalled him from his friend’s body. He looked 
about him. Where was Nikobat? Where were 
Kruj and Mimi? 

A small inkling of the truth began to reach 
him. He hurried to the window and looked out. 

There were no Bokors before the house. Only 
a few citizens staring dazedly at a wide space of 
emptiness. 

At that moment the loud-speaker sounded. 
“Announcement,” a shocked voice trembled. 
“Chief of Stappers haves just disappeared.” And 
in a moment it added, “Guards report all travel- 
ers have vanished.” 

The citizens before the house were rubbing 
their eyes like men coming out of a nightmare. 



“But don’t you see, madam — No? Well, let 
me try again.” Brent was not finding it easy to 
explain her brother’s heroic death to an unten- 
anted Martha. "Remember what your inhabitant 
told us? The Stasis was overthrown by Stephen.” 

“But Stephen bees dead.” 

"Exactly. So listen: All these travelers came 
from a future wherein Stephen had overthrown 
the Stasis. So that when Stephen destroyed him- 
self, as Sirdam realized, he likewise destroyed 
that future. A world in which Stephen died un- 
successful is a world that cannot be entered by 
anyone from the other future. Their worlds 
vanished and they with them. It was the only 
way of abolishing the menace of the incredibly 
multiplied Bokor.” 

“Stephen bees dead. He cans not overthrow 
Stasis now." 

“My dear madam — Hell, skip it. But the 
Stasis is damned nonetheless in this new world 
created by Stephen’s death. I’ve been doing a 
little galping on my own. The people are con- 
vinced now that the many exemplars of Bokor 
were some kind of evil invader. They rebound 
easy, the hordes; they dread the memory of those 
men and they dread also the ideas of cruelty and 
conquest to which the Bokors had so nearly con- 
verted them. 

“But one thing they can’t rebound from is 
the doubts and the new awarenesses that we 
planted in their minds. And there's what’s left 
of your movement to go on with. No, the Stasis 
is damned, even if they are going to erect yet 
another Barrier.” 

"Oh,” Martha shuddered. "You willn’t let them 
do that, will you?” 

Brent grinned. “Madam, there’s damned little 
letting I can do. They’re going to, and that’s 
that. Because, you see, all the travelers vanished.” 

“But why — ’’ 

Brent shrugged and gave up. "Join me in some 
bond?” It was clear enough. The point of time 
which the second Barrier blocked existed both 
in the past of the worlds of Nikobat and Sirdam, 
and in the past of this future they were now en- 
tering. But no travelers had come from this 
future. Therefore there must be a Barrier yet 
ahead of them. 

Would the Stasis by then be dissolved into a 
normal human society? Would man have cast 
aside his purse-proud garment of smugness and 
become his struggling, striving, failing, ridicu- 
lous, noble self? And the travelers from this 
coming future — would th6y be Sirdams to counsel 
and guide man, or Bokors to corrupt and debase 
him? 

Brent lifted his glass of bond. “To the moment 
after the next Barrier!” he said. 



THE END. 



34 



THE TWONKY 

• The skilled — but very! — workman was a hit confused, and, in his doze, made 
something a little out of — time. Quite a little something, too. It looked like a stand- 
ard radio, but unlike most of those complex gadgets, this one would wash the dishes! 

By Lewis Padgett 



Illustrated by Ortoan 



The turnover at Mideastern Radio was so great 
that Mickey Lloyd couldn’t keep track of his men. 
It wasn’t only the draft; employees kept quitting 
and going elsewhere, at a higher salary. So when 
the big-headed little man in overalls wandered 
vaguely out of a storeroom, Lloyd took one look 
at the brown dungaree suit — company provided — 
and said mildly, “The whistle blew half an hour 
ago. Hop to work.” 

“Work-k-k?” The man seemed to have trouble 
with the word. 

Drunk? Lloyd, in his capacity as foreman, 
couldn’t permit that. He flipped away his ciga- 
rette, walked forward, and sniffed. No, it wasn’t 
liquor. He peered at the badge on the man’s 
overalls. 

“Two-oh-four, m-mm. Are you new here?” 

“New. Huh?” The man rubbed a rising bump 
on his forehead. He was an odd-looking little 
chap, bald as a vacuum tube, with a pinched, pallid 
face and tiny eyes that held dazed wonder. 

“Come on, Joe. Wake up!" Lloyd was begin- 
ning to sound impatient. “You work here, don’t 
you?” 

“Joe," said the man thoughtfully. “Work. Yes, 
I work. I make them." His words ran together 
oddly, as though he had a cleft palate. 

With another glance at the badge, Lloyd gripped 
Joe’s arm and ran him through the assembly room. 
“Here’s your place. Hop to it. Know what to do?" 

The other drew his scrawny body erect. “I am — 
expert,” he remarked. “Make them better than 
Ponthwank.” 

“O. K.,” Lloyd said. “Make ’em, then." And 
he went away. 

The man called Joe hesitated, nursing the bruise 
on his head. The overalls caught his attention, 
and he examined them wonderingly. Where — oh, 
yes. They had been hanging in the room from 
which he had first emerged. His own garments 
had, naturally, dissipated during the trip — what 
trip? 

Amnesia, the thought. He had fallen from the 



. . . the something . . . when it slowed down and 
stopped. How odd this huge, machine-filled barn 
looked! It struck no chord of remembrance. 

Amnesia, that was it. He was a worker. He 
made things. As for the unfamiliarity of his 
surroundings, that meant nothing. He was still 
dazed. The clouds would lift from his mind 
presently. They were beginning to do that al- 
ready. 

Work. Joe scuttled around the room, trying to 
goad his faulty memory. Men in overalls were 
doing things. Simple, obvious things. But how 
childish — how elemental ! Perhaps this was a kin- 
dergarten. 

After a while Joe went out into a stock room 
and examined some finished models of combination 
radio-phonographs. So that was it. Awkward and 
clumsy, but it wasn’t his place to say so. No. 
His job was to make Twonkies. 

Twonkies? The name jolted his memory again. 
Of course he knew how to make Twonkies. He’d 
made them all his life — had been specially trained 
for the job. Now they were using a different 
model of Twonky, but what the hell! Child’s play 
for a clever workman. 

Joe went back into the shop and found a vacant 
bench. He began to build a Twonky. Occasionally 
he slipped off and stole the material he needed. 
Once, when he couldn’t locate any tungsten, he 
hastily built a small gadget and made it. 

His bench was in a distant corner, badly lighted, 
though it seemed quite bright to Joe’s eyes. No- 
body noticed the console that was swiftly growing 
to completion there. Joe worked very, very fast. 
He ignored the noon whistle, and, at quitting 
time, his task was finished. It could, perhaps, 
stand another coat of paint — it lacked the Shim- 
mertone of a standard Twonky. But none of the 
others had Shimmer tone. Joe sighed, crawled 
under the bench, looked in vain for a relaxopad, 
and went to sleep on the floor. 

A few hours later he woke up. The factory 
was empty. Odd ! Maybe the working hours had 



35 




changed. Maybe — Joe’s mind felt funny. Sleep 
had cleared away the mists of amnesia, if such it 
had been, but he still felt dazed. 

Muttering under his breath, he sent the Twonky 
into the stock room and compared it with the 
others. Superficially it was identical with a con- 
sole radio-phonograph combination of the latest 
model. Following the pattern of the others, Joe 
had camouflaged and disguised the various organs 
and reactors. 

He went back into the shop. Then the last of 
the mists cleared from his mind. Joe’s shoulders 
jerked convulsively. 

"Great Snell!” he gasped. “So that was it! I 
ran into a temporal snag!” 

With a startled glance around, he fled to the 
storeroom from which he had first emerged. The 
overalls he took off and returned to their hook. 
After that, Joe went over to a corner, felt around 
in the air, nodded with satisfaction, and seated 
himself on nothing, three feet above the floor. 
Then Joe vanished. 

AST— 3K 



"Time,” said Kerry Westerfield, “is curved. 
Eventually it gets back to the same place where 
it started. That’s duplication.” He put his feet 
up on a conveniently outjutting rock of the chim- 
ney and stretched luxuriously. From the kitchen 
Martha made clinking noises with bottles and 
glasses. 

"Yesterday at this time I had a Martini,” Kerry 
said. “The time curve indicates that I should have 
another one now. Are you listening, angel?” 
"I’m pouring,” said the angel distantly. 

“You get my point, then. Here’s another. Time 
describes a spiral instead of a circle. If you call 
the first cycle a, the second one’s a plus 1 — see? 
Which means a double Martini tonight.” 

“I know where that would end,” Martha re- 
marked, coming into the spacious, oak-raftered 
living room. She was a small, dark-haired woman 
with a singularly pretty face and a figure to match. 
Her tiny gingham apron looked slightly absurd 
in combination with slacks and silk blouse. “And 
they don’t make infinity-proof gin. Here’s your 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



3fi 

Martini.” She did things with the shaker and 
manipulated glasses. 

"Stir slowly,” Kerry cautioned. “Never shake. 
Ah — that’s it.” He accepted the drink and eyed it 
appreciatively. Black hair, sprinkled with gray, 
gleamed in the lamplight as he sipped the Mar- 
tini. “Good. Very good.” 

Martha drank slowly and eyed her husband. 
A nice guy, Kerry Westerfield. He was forty-odd, 
pleasantly ugly, with a wide mouth and an occa- 
sional sardonic gleam in his gray eyes, as he 
contemplated life. They had been married for 
twelve years, and liked it. 

From outside, the late faint glow of sunset came 
through the windows, picking out the console 
cabinet that stood against the wall by the door. 
Kerry peered at it with appreciation. 

“A pretty penny,” he remarked. “Still — ” 
“What? Oh. The men had a tough time get- 
ting it up the stairs. Why don’t you try it, 
Kerry?” 

"Didn’t you?” 

“The old one was complicated enough," Martha 
said, in a baffled manner. "Gadgets. They confuse 
me. I was brought up on an Edison. You wound 
it up with a crank, and strange noises came out of 
a horn. That I could understand. But now — you 
push a button, and extraordinary things happen. 
Electric eyes, tone selections, records that get 
played on both sides, to the accompaniment of 
weird groanings and clickings from inside the con- 
sole — probably you understand those things. I 
don’t even want to. Whenever I play a Crosby 
record in a superdooper like that, Bing seems em- 
barrassed.” 

Kerry ate his olive. “I’m going to play some 
Debussy.” He nodded toward a table. “There’s 
a new Crosby record for you. The latest.” 
Martha wriggled happily. "Can I, maybe, huh?” 
“Uh-huh.” 

“But you’ll have to show me how.” 

"Simple enough,” said Kerry, beaming at the 
console. “Those babies are pretty good, you know. 
They do everything but think.” 

“I wish it’d wash the dishes,” Martha remarked. 
She set down her glass, got up, and vanished into 
the kitchen. 

Kerry snapped on a lamp nearby and went over 
to examine the new radio, Mideastern’s latest 
model, with all the new improvements. It had 
been expensive — but what the hell? He could 
afford it. And the old one had been pretty well 
shot. 

It was not, he saw, plugged in. Nor were there 
any wires in evidence — not even a ground. Some- 
thing new, perhaps. Built-in antenna and ground. 
Kerry crouched down, looked for a socket, and 
plugged the cord into it. 

That done, he opened the doors and eyed the 



dials with every appearance of satisfaction. A 
beam of bluish light shot out and hit him in the 
eyes. From the depths of the console a faint, 
thoughtful clicking proceeded. Abruptly it 
stopped. Kerry blinked, fiddled with dials and 
switches, and bit at a fingernail. 

The radio said, in a distant voice, “Psychology 
pattern checked and recorded.” 

“Eh?” Kerry twirled a dial. "Wonder what 
that was? Amateur station — no, they’re off the 
air. Hm-m-m.” He shrugged and went over to a 
chair beside the shelves of albums. His gaze ran 
swiftly over the titles and composers’ names. 
Where was the "Swan of Tuolema”? There it was, 
next to “Finlandia,” for no apparent reason. Kerry 
took down the album and opened it in his lap. 
With his free hand he extracted a cigarette from 
his pocket, put it between his lips, and fumbled 
for the matches on the table beside him. The first 
match he lit went out. • 

He tossed it into the fireplace and was about to 
reach for another when a faint noise caught his 
attention. The radio was walking across the 
room toward him. A whiplike tendril flicked out 
from somewhere, picked up a match, scratched it 
beneath the table top — as Kerry had done — and 
held the flame to the man’s cigarette. 

Automatic reflexes took over. Kerry sucked in 
his breath, and exploded in smoky, racking coughs. 
He bent double, gasping and momentarily blind. 

When he could see again, the radio was back in 
its accustomed place. 

Kerry caught his lower lip bet ween his teeth. 
"Martha,” he called. 

"Soup’s on," her voice said. 

Kerry didn’t answer. He stood up, went over 
to the radio, and looked at it hesitantly. The 
electric cord had been pulled out of its socket. 
Kerry gingerly replaced it. 

He crouched to examine the console’s legs. They 
looked like finely finished wood. His exploratory 
hand told him nothing. • Wood — hard and brittle. 
How in hell — 

“Dinner!” Martha called. 

Kerry threw his cigarette into the fireplace and 
slowly walked out of the room. His wife, setting 
a gravy boat in place, stared at him. 

"How many Martinis did you have?” 

“Just one," Kerry said in a vague way. "I must 
have dozed off for a minute. Yeah. I must have." 

“Well, fall to,” Martha commanded. "This is 
the last chance you’ll have to make a pig of 
yourself on my dumplings, for a week, anyway.” 
Kerry absently felt for his wallet, took out an 
envelope, and tossed it toward his wife. "Here’s 
your ticket, angel. Don’t lose it.” 

“Oh? I rate a compartment!” Martha thrust 
the pasteboard back into its envelope and gurgled 
happily. “You’re a pal. Sure you can get along 
without me?” 



THE TWONKY 



37 



“Huh? Hm-m-m — I think so.” Kerry salted his 
avocado. He shook himself and seemed to come 
out of a slight daze. “Sure, I’ll be all right. You 
trot off to Denver and help Carol have her baby. 
It’s all in the family." 

“We-ell, my only sister — ’’ Martha grinned. 
“You know how she and Bill are. Quite nuts. 
They’ll need a steadying hand just now.” 

There was no reply. Kerry was brooding over 
a forkful of avocado. He muttered something 
about the Venerable Bede. 

“What about him?” 

“Lecture tomorrow. Every term we bog down 
on the Bede, for some strange reason. Ah, well." 

"Got your lecture ready?” 

Kerry nodded. “Sure. For eight years he had 
taught at the University, and he certainly should 
know the schedule by this time! 

Later, over coffee and cigarettes, Martha glanced 
at her wrist watch. “Nearly train time. I'd better 
finish packing. The dishes — " 

“I’ll do ’em.” Kerry wandered after his wife 
into the bedroom and made motions of futile help- 
fulness. After a while, he carried the bags down 
to the car. Martha joined him, and they headed 
for the depot. 

The train was on time. Half an hour after it 
had pulled out, Kerry drove the car back into the 
garage, let himself into the house and yawned 
mightily. He was tired. Well, the dishes, and 
then beer and a book in bed. 

With a puzzled look at the radio, he entered 
the kitchen and did things with water and soap 
chips. The hall phone rang. Kerry wiped his 
hands on a dish towel and answered it. 

It was Mike Fitzgerald, who taught psychology 
at the University. 

“Hiya, Fitz.” 

“Hiya. Martha gone?” 

“Yeah. I just drove her to the train." 

“Feel like talking, then? I’ve got some pretty 
good Scotch. Why not run over and gab a while?" 

“Like to,” Kerry said, yawning again, “but I’m 
dead. Tomorrow’s a big day. Rain check?” 

“Sure. I just finished correcting papers, and 
felt the need of sharpening my mind. What’s the 
matter?” 

“Nothing. Wait a minute.” Kerry put down 
the phone and looked over his shoulder, scowling. 
Noises were coming from the kitchen. What the 
hell! 

He went along the hall and stopped in the door- 
way, motionless and staring. The radio was wash- 
ing the dishes. 

After a while he returned to the phone. Fitz- 
gerald said, “Something?” 

“My new radio,” Kerry told him carefully. “It’s 
washing the dishes.” 



Fitz didn't answer for a moment. His laugh was 
a bit hesitant. “Oh?" 

“I’ll call you back,” Kerry said, and hung up. 
He stood motionless for a while, chewing his lip. 
Then he walked back to the kitchen and paused to 
watch. 

The radio’s back was toward him. Several lim- 
ber tentacles were manipulating the dishes, ex- 
pertly sousing them in hot, soapy water, scrubbing 
them with the little mop, dipping them into the 
rinse water, and then stacking them neatly in the 
metal rack. Those whip-lashes were the only sign 
of unusual activity. The legs were apparently 
solid. 

“Hey!” Kerry said. 

There was no response. 

He sidled around till he could examine the 
radio more closely. The tentacles emerged from 
a slot under one of the dials. The electric cord 
was dangling. No juice, then. But what — 

Kerry stepped back and fumbled out a cigarette. 
Instantly the radio turned, took a match from its 
container on the stove, and walked forward. Kerry 
blinked, studying the legs. They couldn’t be wood. 
They were bending as the . . . the thing moved, 
elastic as rubber. The radio had a peculiar sidling 
motion unlike anything else on earth. 

It lit Kerry’s cigarette and went back to the 
sink, where it resumed the dishwashing. 

Kerry phoned Fitzgerald again. “I wasn’t kid- 
ding. I’m having hallucinations or something. 
That damned radio just lit a cigarette for me.” 

“Wait a minute — ” Fitzgerald’s voice sounded 
undecided. "This is a gag — eh?” 

“No. And I don’t think it’s a hallucination, 
either. It's up your alley. Can you run over and 
test my knee-jerks?" 

“All right,” Fitz said. “Give me ten minutes. 
Have a drink ready." 

He hung up, and Kerry, laying the phone back 
into its cradle, turned to see the radio walking 
out of the kitchen toward the living room. Its 
square, boxlike contour was subtly horrifying, like 
some bizarre sort of hobgoblin. Kerry shivered. 

He followed the radio, to find it in its former 
place, motionless and impassive. He opened the 
doors, examining the turntable, the phonograph 
arm, and the other buttons and gadgets. There 
was nothing apparently unusual. Again he touched 
the legs. They were not wood, after all. Some 
plastic, which seemed quite hard. Or — maybe 
they were wood, after all. It was difficult to make 
certain, without damaging the finish. Kerry felt 
a natural reluctance to use a knife on his new 
console. 

He tried the radio, getting local stations with- 
out trouble. The tone was good — unusually good, 
he thought. The phonograph — 

He picked up Halvorsen’s “Entrance of the 



38 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Boyards” at random and slipped it into place, 
closing the lid. No sound emerged. Investigation 
proved that the needle was moving rhythmically 
along the groove, but without audible result. Well? 

Kerry removed the record as the doorbell rang. 
It was Fitzgerald, a gangling, saturnine man with 
a leathery, wrinkled face and a tousled mop of 
dull-gray hair. He extended a large, bony hand. 
“Where’s my drink?” 

“ ’Lo, Fitz. Come in the kitchen. I’ll mix. 
Highball?” 

“Highball.” 

“O. K.” Kerry led the way. “Don’t drink it 
just yet, though. I want to show you my new 
combination.” 

“The one that washes dishes?” Fitzgerald asked. 
“What else does it do?” 

Kerry gave the other a glass. "It won’t play 
records.” 

“Oh, well. A minor matter, if it’ll do the house- 
work. Let’s take a look at it.” Fitzgerald went 
into the living room, selected “Afternoon of a 
Faun,” and approached the radio. “It isn’t 
plugged in.” 

"That doesn’t matter a bit,” Kerry said wildly. 
"Batteries?” Fitzgerald slipped the record in 
place and adjusted the switches. “Ten inch — 
there. Now we’ll see.” He beamed triumphantly 
at Kerry. “Well? It’s playing now.” 

It was. 

Kerry said, "Try that Halvorsen piece. Here." 
He handed the disk to Fitzgerald, who pushed the 
reject switch and watched the lever arm lift. 

But this time the phonograph refused to play. 
It didn’t like “Entrance of the Boyards.” 

“That's funny,” Fitzgerald grunted. “Probably 
the trouble's with the record. Let’s try another.” 
There was no trouble with “Daphnis and Chloe.” 
But the radio silently rejected the composer’s 
“Bolero.” 

Kerry sat down and pointed to a nearby chair. 
"That doesn’t prove anything. Come over here 
and watch. Don’t drink anything yet. You, uh, 
you feel perfectly normal?” 

"Sure. Well?” 

Kerry took out a cigarette. The console walked 
across the room, picking up a match book on the 
way, and politely held the flame. Then it went 
back to its place against the wall. 

Fitzgerald didn’t say anything. After a while 
he took a cigarette from his pocket and waited. 
Nothing happened. 

“So?” Kerry asked. 

“A robot. That’s the only possible answer. 
Where in the name of Petrarch did you get it?” 
"You don’t seem much surprised.” 

“I am, though. But I’ve seen robots before — 
Westinghouse tried it, you know. Only this — ” 



Fitzgerald tapped his teeth with a nail. “Who 
made it?” 

“How the devil should I know?” Kerry de- 
manded. “The radio people, I suppose." 

Fitzgerald narrowed his eyes. “Wait a minute. 
I don’t quite understand — ” 

“There’s nothing to understand. I bought this 
combination a few days ago. Turned in the old 
one. It was delivered this afternoon, and — ” 
Kerry explained what had happened. 

"You mean you didn’t know it was a robot?" 

“Exactly. I bought it as a radio. And . . . and 
. . . the damn thing seems almost alive to me.” 

“Nope.” Fitzgerald shook his head, rose, and 
inspected the console carefully. “It’s a new kind 
of robot. At least — ” He hesitated. “What else 
is there to think? I suggest you get in touch with 
the Mideastern people tomorrow and check up.” 

"Let’s open the cabinet and look inside,” Kerry 
suggested. 

Fitzgerald was willing, but the experiment 
proved impossible. The presumably wooden panels 
weren’t screwed into place, and there was no 
apparent way of opening the console. Kerry found 
a screwdriver and applied it, gingerly at first, then 
with a sort of repressed fury. He could neither 
pry free a panel or even scratch the dark, smooth 
finish of the cabinet. 

“Damn!” he said finally. “Well, your guess is 
as good as mine. It’s a robot. Only I didn’t know 
they could make ’em like this. And why in a 
radio?” 

"Don’t ask me,” Fitzgerald shrugged. “Check 
up tomorrow. That’s the first step. Naturally 
I’m pretty baffled. If a new sort of specialized 
robot has been invented, why put it in a console? 
And what makes those legs move? There aren’t 
any casters.” 

“I’ve been wondering about that, too.” 

"When it moves, the legs look — rubbery. But 
they’re not. They’re hard as ... as hardwood. Or 
plastic. 

“I’m afraid of the thing,” Kerry said. 

“Want to stay at my place tonight?” 

“N-no. No. I guess not. The — robot — can’t 
hurt me.” 

“I don’t think it wants to. It’s been helping 
you, hasn’t it?” 

“Yeah,” Kerry said, and went off to mix another 
drink. 

The rest of the conversation was inconclusive. 
Fitzgerald, several hours later, went home rather 
worried. He wasn’t as casual as he had pretended, 
for the sake of Kerry’s nerves. The impingement 
of something so entirely unexpected on normal 
life was subtly frightening. And yet, as he had 
said, the robot didn’t seem menacing — 

Kerry went to bed, with a new detective mys- 
tery. The radio followed him into the bedroom 



THE TWONKY 



39 



and gently took the book out of his hand. Kerry 
instinctively snatched for it. 

“Hey!" he said. “What the devil — ” 

The radio went back into the living room. Kerry 
followed, in time to see the book replaced on the 
shelf. After a bit Kerry retreated, locking his 
door, and slept uneasily till dawn. 

In dressing gown and slippers, he stumbled out 
to stare at the console. It was back in its former 
place, looking as though it had never moved. 
Kerry, rather white around the gills, made break- 
fast. 

He was allowed only one cup of coffee. The 
radio appeared, reprovingly took the second cup 
from his hand, and emptied it into the sink. 

That was quite enough for Kerry Westerfield. 
He found his hat and topcoat and almost ran out 
of the house. He had a horrid feeling that the 
radio might follow him, but it didn’t, luckily for 
his sanity. He was beginning to be worried. 

During the morning he found time to telephone 
Mideastern. The salesman knew nothing. It was 
a standard model combination — the latest. If it 
wasn’t giving satisfaction, of course, he’d be glad 
to — 

“It’s O. K.,” Kerry said. “But who made the 
thing? That’s what I want to find out.” 

“One moment, sir.” There was a delay. “It 
came from Mr. Lloyd’s department. One of our 
foremen.” 

“Let me speak to him, please.” 

But Lloyd wasn't very helpful. After much 
thought, he remembered that the combination had 
been placed in the stock room without a serial 
number. It had been added later. 

"But who made it?” 

“I just don’t know. I can find out for you, I 
guess. Suppose I ring you K -ct.” 

"Don’t forget,” Kerry said, and went back to 
his class. The lecture on the Venerable Bede 
wasn’t too successful. 

At lunch he saw Fitzgerald, who seemed re- 
lieved when Kerry came over to his table. “Find 
out any more about your pet robot?” the psychol- 
ogy professor demanded. 

No one else was within hearing. With a sigh 
Kerry sat down and lit a cigarette. “Not a thing. 
It’s a pleasure to be able to do this myself.” He 
drew smoke into his lungs. “I phoned the com- 
pany.” 

“And?" 

“They don't know anything. Except that it 
didn’t have a serial number.” 

“That may be significant," Fitzgerald said. 

Kerry told the other about the incidents of the 
book and the coffee, and Fitzgerald squinted 
thoughtfully at his milk. “I’ve given you some 
psych tests. Too much stimulation isn’t good for 
you." 



“A detective yarn!" 

“Carrying it a bit to extremes, I’ll admit. But 
I can understand why the robot acted that way — 
though I dunno how it managed it.” He hesitated. 
“Without intelligence, that is.” 

“Intelligence?" Kerry licked his lips. “I’m not 
so sure that it’s just a machine. And I’m not 
crazy.” 

“No. you’re not. But you say the robot was 
in the front room. How could it tell what you 
were reading?” 

“Short of X-ray vision and superfast scanning 
and assimilative powers, I can’t imagine. Per- 
haps it doesn’t want me to read anything.” 
“You’ve said something,” Fitzgerald grunted. 
“Know much about theoretical — machines — of that 
type?” 

“Robots?" 

“Purely theoretical. Your brain’s a colloid, you 
know. Compact, complicated — but slow. Suppose 
you work out a gadget with a multimillion radio- 
atom unit embedded in an insulating material — 
the result is a brain. Kerry. A brain with a tre- 
mendous number of units interacting at lighb- 
velocity speeds. A radio tube adjusts current flow 
when it’s operating at forty million separate sig- 
nals a second. And — theoretically — a radioatomic 
brain of the type I’ve mentioned could include per- 
ception, recognition, consideration, reaction and 
adjustment in a hundred-thousandth of a second." 
“Theory.” 

“I’ve thought so. But I’d like to find out where 
your radio came from.” 

A page came over. “Telephone call for Mr. 
Westerfield.” 

Kerry excused himself and left. When he re- 
turned, there was a puzzled frown knitting his 
dark brows. Fitzgerald looked at him inquiringly. 

“Guy named Lloyd, at the Mideastern plant. I 
was talking to him about the radio.” 

“Any luck?” 

Kerry shook his head. “No. Well, not much. 
He didn’t know who had built the thing.” 

“But it was built in the plant?” 

“Yes. About two weeks ago — but there’s no 
record of who worked on it. Lloyd seemed to 
think that was very, very funny. If a radio’s built 
in the plant, they know who put it together." 
“So?” 

“So nothing. I asked him how to open the 
cabinet, and he said it was easy. Just unscrew the 
panel in back.” 

“There aren’t any screws,” Fitzgerald said. 

“I know.” 

They looked at one another. 

Fitzgerald said, “I’d give fifty bucks to find out 
whether that robot was really built only two weeks 
ago.” 

“Why?” 

“Because a radioatomic brain would need train- 



40 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



ing. Even in such matters as the lighting of a 
cigarette.” 

"It saw me light one.” 

"And followed the example. The dish-washing 
— hm-m-m. Induction, I suppose. If that gadget 
has been trained, it’s a robot. If it hasn’t — ” 
Fitzgerald stopped. 

Kerry blinked. “Yes?” 

"I don’t know what the devil it is. It bears the 
same relation to a robot that we bear to eohippus. 
One thing I do know, Kerry; it’s very probably 
that no scientist today has the knowledge it would 
take to make a ... a thing like that.” 

“You're arguing in circles,” Kerry said. "It 
was made.” 

“Uh-huh. But how — when — and by whom? 
That’s what’s got me worried.” 

“Well, I’ve a class in five minutes. Why not 
come over tonight?” 

“Can’t. I’m lecturing at the Hall. I’ll phone 
you after, though.” 

With a nod Kerry went out, trying to dismiss 
the matter from his mind. He succeeded pretty 
well. But dining alone in a restaurant that night, 
he began to feel a general unwillingness to go 
home. A hobgoblin was waiting for him. 

“Brandy,” he told the waiter. “Make it double.” 

Two hours later a taxi let Kerry out at his door. 
He was remarkably drunk. Things swam before 
his eyes. He walked unsteadily toward the porch, 
mounted the steps with exaggerated care, and let 
himself into the house. 

He switched on a lamp. 

The radio came forward to meet him. Tentacles, 
thin, but strong as metal, coiled gently around his 
body, holding him motionless. A pang of violent 
fear struck through Kerry. He struggled desper- 
ately and tried to yell, but his throat was dry. 

From the radio panel a beam of yellow light 
shot out, blinding the man. It swung down, aimed 
at his chest. Abruptly a queer taste was percepti- 
ble under Kerry’s tongue. 

After a minute or so, the ray clicked out, the 
tentacles flashed back out of sight, and the con- 
sole returned to its corner. Kerry staggered 
weakly to a chair and relaxed, gulping. 

He was sober. Which was quite impossible. 
Fourteen brandies infiltrate a definite amount of 
alcohol into the system. One can’t wave a magic 
wand and instantly reach a state of sobriety. Yet 
that was exactly what had happened. 

The — robot — was trying to be helpful. Only 
Kerry would have preferred to remain drunk. 

He got up gingerly and sidled past the radio to 
the bookshelf. One eye on the combination, he 
took down the detective novel he had tried to read 
on the preceding night. As he had expected, the 



radio took it from his hand and replaced it on the 
shelf. Kerry, remembering Fitzgerald’s words, 
glanced at his watch. Reaction time, four seconds. 

He took down a Chaucer and waited, but the 
radio didn’t stir. However, when Kerry found a 
history volume, it was gently removed from his 
fingers. Reaction time, six seconds. 

Kerry located a history twice as thick. 

Reaction time, ten seconds. 

Uh-huh. So the robot did read the books. That 
meant X-ray vision and superswift reactions. 
Jumping Jehoshaphat! 

Kerry tested more books, wondering what the 
criterion was. “Alice in Wonderland” was 
snatched from his hand; Millay’s poems were not. 
He made a list, with two columns, for future ref- 
erence. 

The robot, then, was not merely a servant. It 
was a censor. But what was the standard of 
comparison? 

After a while he remembered his lecture tomor- 
row, and thumbed through his notes. Several 
points needed verification. Rather hesitantly he 
located the necessary reference book — and the 
robot took it away from him. 

"Wait a minute,” Kerry said. "I need that.” 
He tried to pull the volume out of the tentacle’s 
grasp, without success. The console paid no at- 
tention. It calmly replaced the book on its shelf. 

Kerry stood biting his lip. This was a bit too 
much. The damned robot was a monitor. He 
sidled toward the book, snatched it, and was out 
in the hall before the radio could move. 

The thing was coming after him. He could hear 
the soft padding of its . . . its feet. Kerry scur- 
ried into the bedroom and locked the door. He 
waited, heart thumping, as the knob was tried 
gently. 

A wire-thin cilia crept through the crack of the 
door and fumbled with the key. Kerry suddenly 
jumped forward and shoved the auxiliary bolt into 
position. But that didn’t help, either. The robot’s 
precision tools— the specialized antenna — slid it 
back; and then the console opened the door, 
walked into the room, and came toward Kerry. 

He felt a touch of panic. With a little gasp he 
threw the book at the thing, and it caught it 
deftly. Apparently that was all that was wanted, 
for the radio turned and went out, rocking awk- 
wardly on its rubbery legs, carrying the forbidden 
volume. Kerry cursed quietly. 

The phone rang. It was Fitzgerald. 

“Well? How’d you make out?” 

“Have you got a copy of Cassen’s ‘Social Litera- 
ture of the Ages’?” 

“I don’t think so — no. Why?” 

“I’ll get it in the University library tomorrow. 



THE TWONKY 



41 



then.” Kerry explained what had happened. Fitz- 
gerald whistled softly. 

“Interfering, is it? Hm-m-m. I wonder — ” 

“I’m afraid of the thing." 

“I don’t think it means you any harm. You say 
it sobered you up?” 

“Yeah. With a light ray. That isn’t very 
logical.” 

“It might be. The vibrationary equivalent of 
thiamin chloride.” 

“Light?” 

“There's vitamin content in sunlight, you know. 
That isn’t the important point. It’s censoring 
your reading — and apparently it reads the books, 
with superfast reactions. That gadget, whatever 
it is, isn’t merely a robot." 

“You’re telling me,” Kerry said grimly. "It’s a 
Hitler.” 

Fitzgerald didn’t laugh. Rather soberly, he sug- 
gested, “Suppose you spend the night at my 
place?” 

“No,” Kerry said, his voice stubborn. “No so- 
and-so radio’s going to chase me out of my house. 
I’ll take an ax to the thing first.” 

“We-ell — you know what you’re doing, I sup- 
pose. Phone me if ... if anything happens." 

“O. K.,” Kerry said, and hung up. He went into 
the living room and eyed the radio coldly. What 
the devil was it — and what was it trying to do? 
Certainly it wasn’t merely a robot. Equally cer- 
tainly, it wasn’t alive, in the sense that a colloid 
brain is alive. 

Lips thinned, he went over and fiddled with the 
dials and switches. A swing band’s throbbing, 
erratic tempo came from the console. He tried the 
short-wave band — nothing unusual there. So? 

So nothing. There was no answer. 

After a while he went to bed. 

At luncheon the next day he brought Cassen’s 
“Social Literature" to show Fitzgerald. 

“What about it?” 

“Look here.” Kerry flipped the pages and indi- 
cated a passage. “Does this mean anything to 
you?” 

Fitzgerald read it. “Yeah. The point seems 
to be that individualism is necessary for the pro- 
duction of literature. Right?” 

Kerry looked at him. “I don’t know.” 

“Eh?” 

“My mind goes funny." 

Fitzgerald rumpled his gray hair, narrowing his 
eyes and watching the other man intently. “Come 
again. I don't quite — ” 

With angry patience, Kerry said, “This morning 
I went into the library and looked up this refer- 
ence. I read it all right. But it didn’t mean any- 
thing to me. Just words. Know how it is when 
you’re fagged out and have been reading a lot? 
You'll run into a sentence with a lot of subjunc- 



tive clauses, and it doesn't percolate. Well, it was 
like that.” 

“Read it now," Fitzgerald said quietly, thrust- 
ing the book across the table. 

Kerry obeyed, looking up with a wry smile. 
“No good:.” 

“Read it aloud. I’ll go over it with you, step 
by step.” 

But that didn’t help. Kerry seemed utterly un- 
able to assimilate the sense of the passage. 

“Semantic block, maybe,” Fitzgerald said, 
scratching his ear. “Is this the first time it’s hap- 
pened?” 

“Yes ... no. I don’t know.” 

“Got any classes this afternoon? Good. Let’s 
run over to your place.” 

Kerry thrust away his plate. “All right. I’m 
not hungry. Whenever you’re ready — ” 

Half an hour later they were looking at the 
radio. It seemed quite harmless. Fitzgerald 
wasted some time trying to pry a panel off, but 
finally gave it up as a bad job. He found pencil 
and paper, seated himself opposite Kerry, and 
began to ask questions. 

At one point he paused. “You didn’t mention 
that before." 

“Forgot it, I guess.” 

Fitzgerald tapped his teeth with the pencil. 
“Hm-m-m. The first time the radio acted up — ” 
“It hit me in the eye with a blue light — ” 
“Not that. I mean — what it said." 

Kerry blinked. “What it said?” He hesitated. 
“ ‘Psychology pattern checked and noted,’ or some- 
thing like that. I thought I’d tuned in on some 
station and got part of a quiz program or some- 
thing. You mean — ” 

“Were the words easy to understand? Good 
English?” 

"No, now that I remember it,” Kerry scowled. 
“They were slurred quite a lot. Vowels stressed.” 
“Uh-huh. Well, let’s get on.” They tried a 
word-association test. 

Finally Fitzgerald leaned back, frowning. “I 
want to check this stuff with the last tests I gave 
you a few months ago. It looks funny to me — 
damned funny. I’d feel a lot better if I knew 
exactly what memory was. We’ve done considera- 
ble work on memonics — artificial memory. Still, 
it may not be that at all.” 

“Eh?” 

“That — machine. Either it’s got an artificial 
memory, has been highly trained, or else it’s 
adjusted to a different milieu and culture. It has 
affected you — quite a lot." 

Kerry licked dry lips. “How?” 

“Implanted blocks in your mind. I haven’t cor- 
related them yet. When I do, we may be able to 
figure out some sort of answer. No, that thing isn’t 



42 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



a robot. It’s a lot more than that.” 

Kerry took out a cigarette; the console walked 
across the room and lit it for him. The two men 
watched with a faint shrinking horror. 

“You’d better stay with me tonight,” Fitzgerald 
suggested. 

"No,” Kerry said. He shivered. 

The next day Fitzgerald looked for Kerry at 
lunch, but the younger man did not appear. He 
telephoned the house, and Martha answered the 
call. 

“Hello! When did you get back?” 

“Hello, Fitz. About an hour ago. My sister 
went ahead and had her baby without me — so I 
came back.” She stopped, and Fitzgerald was 
alarmed at her tone. 

“Where’s Kerry?” 

“He’s here. Can you come over, Fitz? I’m 
worried." 

“What’s the matter with him?" 

“I ... I don’t know. Come right away.” 

“O. K.,” Fitzgerald said, and hung up, biting 
his lips. He was worried. When, a short while 
later, he rang the Westerfield bell, he discovered 
that his nerves were badly out of control. But 
sight of Martha reassured him. 

He followed her into the living room. Fitz- 
gerald’s glance went at once to the console, which 
was unchanged ; and then to Kerry, seated motion- 
less by a window. Kerry’s face had a blank, dazed 
look. His pupils were dilated, and he seemed to 
recognize Fitzgerald only slowly. 

“Hello, Fitz,” he said. 

"How do you feel?” 

Martha broke in. “Fitz, what’s wrong? Is he 
sick? Shall I call the doctor?” 

Fitzgerald sat down. "Have you noticed any- 
thing funny about that radio?” 

"No. Why?" 

"Then listen.” He told the whole story, watch- 
ing incredulity struggle with reluctant belief on 
Martha’s face. Presently she said, "I can’t quite — ” 
"If Kerry takes out a cigarette, the thing will 
light it for him. Want to see how it works?" 

"N-no. Yes. I suppose so.” Martha’s eyes 
were wide. 

Fitzgerald gave Kerry a cigarette. The expected 
happened. 

Martha didn’t say a word. When the console 
had returned to its place, she shivered and went 
over to Kerry. He looked at her vaguely. 

"He needs a doctor, Fitz.” 

“Yes.” Fitzgerald didn’t mention that a doctor 
might be quite useless. 

“What is that thing?" 

"It’s more than a robot. And it's been readjust- 
ing Kerry. I told you what’s happened. When I 
checked Kerry's psychology patterns, I found that 



they’d altered. He’s lost most of his initiative.” 
"Nobody on earth could have made that — ” 
Fitzgerald scowled. “I thought of that. It 
seems to be the product of a well-developed cul- 
ture, quite different from ours. Martian, perhaps. 
It’s such a specialized thing that it naturally fits 
into a complicated culture. But I do not under- 
stand why it looks exactly like a Mideastern con- 
sole radio.” 

Martha touched Kerry’s hand. “Camouflage?” 
"But why? You were one of my best pupils in 
psych, Martha. Look at this logically. Imagine 
a civilization where a gadget like that has its place. 
Use inductive reasoning.” 

“I’m trying to. I can’t think very well. Fitz, 
I'm worried about Kerry.” 

“I’m all right,” Kerry said. 

Fitzgerald put his fingertips together. "It isn’t 
a radio so much as a monitor. In this other 
civilization, perhaps every man has one, or maybe 
only a few — the ones who need it. It keeps them 
in line.” 

“By destroying initiative?” 

Fitzgerald made a helpless gesture. "I don't 
know! It worked that way in Kerry’s case. In 
others — I don’t know.” 

Martha stood up. “I don’t think we should talk 
any more. Kerry needs a doctor. After that we 
can decide upon that.” She pointed to the con- 
sole. 

Fitzgerald said, "It’d be rather a shame to 
wreck it, but — ’’ His look was significant. 

The console moved. It came out from its corner 
with a sidling, rocking gait and walked toward 
Fitzgerald. As he sprang up, the whiplike ten- 
tacles flashed out and seized him. A pale ray 
shone into the man’s eyes. 

Almost instantly it vanished ; the tentacles with- 
drew, and the radio returned to its place. Fitz- 
gerald stood motionless. Martha was on her feet, 
one hand at her mouth. 

“Fitz!” Her voice shook. 

He hesitated. “Yes? What’s the matter?” 
“Are you hurt? What did it do to you?” 
Fitzgerald frowned a little. "Eh? Hurt? I 
don’t — ” 

“The radio. What did it do?” 

He looked toward the console. “Something 
wrong with it? Afraid I’m not much of a repair 
man, Martha.” 

“Fitz.” She came forward and gripped his arm. 
“Listen to me.” Quick words spilled from her 

mouth. The radio. Kerry. Their discussion 

Fitzgerald looked at her blankly, as though he 
didn’t quite understand. “I guess I’m stupid to- 
,day. I can’t quite understand what you’re talking 
about.” 

"The radio— you know! You said it changed 



THE TWONKY 



43 



Kerry — ” Martha paused, staring at the man. 

Fitzgerald was definitely puzzled. Martha was 
acting strangely. Queer ! He’d always considered 
her a pretty level-headed girl. But now she was 
talking nonsense. At least, he couldn’t figure out 
the meaning of her words — there was no sense to 
them. 

And why was she talking about the radio? 
Wasn't it satisfactory? Kerry had said it was a 
good buy, with a fine tone and the latest gadgets 
in it. Fitzgerald wondered, for a fleeting second, 
if Martha had gone crazy. 

In any case, he was late for his class. He said 
so. Martha didn’t try to stop him when he went 
out. She was pale as chalk. 

Kerry took out a cigarette. The radio walked 
over and held a match. 

“Kerry!" 

“Yes, Martha?’’ His voice was dead. 

She stared at the . . . the radio. Mars? Another 
world — another civilization? What was it? What 
did it want? What was it trying to do? 

Martha let herself out of the house and went 
to the garage. When she returned, a small hatchet 
was gripped tightly in her hand. 

Kerry watched. He saw Martha walk over to 
the radio and lift the hatchet. Then a beam of 
light shot out, and Martha vanished. A little dust 
floated up in the afternoon sunlight. 

“Destruction of life-form threatening attack," 
the radio said, slurring the words together. 

Kerry’s brain turned over. He felt sick, dazed 
and horribly empty. Martha — 

His mind— churned. Instinct and emotion 

fought with something that smothered them. 
Abruptly the dams crumbled, and the blocks were 
gone, the barriers down. Kerry cried out hoarsely, 
inarticulately, and sprang to his feet. 

“Martha!" he yelled. 

She was gone. Kerry looked around. Where — 

What had happened? He couldn’t remember. 

He sat down in the chair again, rubbing his fore- 
head. His free hand brought up a cigarette, an 
automatic reaction that brought instant response. 



The radio walked forward and held a lighted 
match ready. 

Kerry made a choking, sick sound and flung him- 
self out of the chair. He remembered now. He 
picked up the hatchet and sprang toward the con- 
sole, teeth bared in a mirthless rictus. 

Again the light beam flashed out. 

Kerry vanished. The hatchet thudded onto the 
carpet. 

The radio walked back to its place and stood 
motionless once more. A faint clicking proceeded 
from its radioatomic brain. 

"Subject basically unsuitable,” it said, after a 
moment. “Elimination has been necessary." 
Click! “Preparation for next subject completed.” 

Click. 

“We’ll take it,” the boy said. 

"You won’t be making a mistake," smiled the 
rental agent. “It’s quiet, isolated, and the price is 
quite reasonable.” 

“Not so very,” the girl put in. “But it is just 
what we’ve been looking for." 

The agent shrugged. “Of course an unfurnished 
place would run less. But — " 

“We haven’t been married long enough to get 
any furniture,” the boy grinned. He put an arm 
around his wife. “Like it, hon?” 

“Hm-m-m. Who lived here before?" 

The agent scratched his cheek. “Let’s see. Some 
people named Westerfield, I think. It was given 
to me for listing just about a week ago. Nice 
place. If I didn’t own my own house. I’d jump at 
it myself." # 

“Nice radio," the boy said. “Late model, isn’t 
it?" He went over to examine the console. 

"Come along,” the girl urged. “Let’s loolc at 
the kitchen again.” 

"O. K., hon." 

They went out of the room. From the hall came 
the sound of the agent’s smooth voice, growing 
fainter. Warm afternoon sunlight slanted through 
the windows. 

For a moment there was silence. Then— 

Click! 



THE END. 





DEATH UNDER THE SEA 

By Willy Icy 

• The art of death from the air was described in a recent issue— the more 
efficient, though even blinder art of unseen death under the sea, takes the 
history of mine, torpedo and submarine back further than most realize. 



Illuitrated by Willy Ley 



It is a tempting idea to speculate how naval 
warfare of today would look if Robert Fulton 
had not lived. For Robert Fulton may be held 
responsible for more than half of all modern naval 
weapons. This statement may sound a bit sur- 
prising to all those to whom Fulton’s name is 
just the name of the inventor of the steamship, 
but it is nevertheless true. 

Of course there can be no doubt that Robert Ful- 
ton’s fame in our time is based mainly on the 
Clermont, the first American steamship which be- 
gan to ply the Hudson between New York and Al- 
bany in 1807. Incidentally, the Clermont was not, 
as one can read occasionally, the very first steam- 
boat ever built. Fulton himself had demonstrated 
an earlier version to the Parisians in 1803. While 
the demonstration had been successful in itself, 
it had failed to convince anybody of the value of 
engine power aboard ship — even the Clermont 
needed quite some time to break down the inertia 
of thousands of years of sailing tradition. 

When residing in France Fulton had also in- 
vented and built a successful small submarine, the 
Nautilus, which swam and dived in. the River 
Seine without any mishap. The propelling power 
for that boat was muscular power, of course. Ful- 
ton had been quick to realize the military value 
of submarines and had offered vessels of the type 
of his Nautilus to the first consul of the French 
Republic, a gentleman by the name of Napoleon 
Buonaparte. But the first consul — who hated the 
Italian "u” in his last name — had rejected the 
offer. It was not because he doubted that larger 
and seaworthy submarines could be built. Na- 
poleon rarely doubted the possibility of any in- 
vention as long as the inventor could tell in rea- 
sonably clear terms what he wanted to do and 
how he wanted to do it. Napoleon was one of the 
least conservative men of his time, a man who 
offered and paid large sums of money to early 
chemists who made sugar from sugar beets instead 
of sugar cane that would not grow in France, he 



was one of the first men who wanted to build a 
tunnel sous la Manche, under the English Channel 
from Calais to Dover when his political relations 
with England were still good — Napoleon, as I 
said, did not doubt that submarines could be built. 
But he was a soldier educated in the tradition of 
open battle, he wanted to face an open enemy 
openly, with the bigger cannon on his side. He 
simply did not like submarines. 

Having been rejected, Fulton went to England, 
only to experience a British version of the same 
rebuttal. He then hinted at French invasion 
plans and devised a barrage of submerged con- 
tact mines. It was "no” again. Back in his native 
America he advocated a variety of torpedo and 
got so far as to have a test arranged. But, as Ful- 
ton pointed out, the commander of the vessel to 
be torpedoed knew what Fulton was going to do 
— and when he was going to do it — -while he him- 
self was left in ignorance about the defenses of 
the vessel. The obvious result was that the test 
did not come off so very well. 

Judging from all this one might be tempted 
to say that without Fulton there would be no 
steam-propelled surface navy, no submarines and 
consequently no depth charges, no mines and, 
therefore, no mine layers and mine sweepers, no 
torpedoes and, of course, no torpedo-carrying ves- 
sels. 

As a matter of fact the difference would hardly 
amount to anything. Somebody else would have 
thought of putting a steam engine aboard a vessel. 
Somebody else would have conceived the naval 
mine — in fact most of the later designers of naval 
mines never knew that Robert Fulton had toyed 
with that idea — and submarines had been invented 
before Fulton and were again invented after him. 

Still, the person of Robert Fulton is something 
like a focal point. Earlier half-forgotten ideas 
were taken up by him and advanced, new ideas 
formed constantly in his imaginative brain and 
even though many of the later inventors of naval 



45 




bushnell’s submarine. 



Fig. 1. The first war-time submarine — a real, one-man job, where 
the man did all the work of propelling, pumping and controlling. 



weapons knew Fulton only as the inventor of the 
steamship and as the inventor of some peaceful 
machinery for spinning and weaving, the history 
of their ideas converges on Fulton’s name in retro- 
spect. 

As for the submarine, only two successful at- 
tempts had been made before Fulton constructed 
his Nautilus. Disregarding some obviously fan- 
tastic claims, the honor of having invented the 
first successful submarine goes to a Dutchman 
by the name of Cornelis van Drebbel, often called 
Cornelius Drebbel. It was a weighed rowboat, 
covered with leather and propelled by oars pro- 
jecting from leather cones. One of his boats, 
built in 1622, is said to have carried several pas- 
sengers, among them King James I, from London 
to Greenwich at an average depth of ten to fifteen 
feet, traveling “fast,” since it was propelled by 
twelve experienced rowers. 

The other successful attempt was David Bush- 
nell's Turtle, so called because it looked as if it 
had been put together from the carapaces of two 
enormous turtles. It seated one man who could 
make it sink by admitting water to the bottom 
compartment and who lorded over an impressive 
array of handles and hand wheels. One of them 
operated a pump which was to eject ballast water, 
the other moved a rudder, one turned a horizontal 
and another a vertical propeller and one finally 
operated a screw by means of which a cannon pow- 
der demolition charge was to be attached to the 
wooden hull of an enemy warship below the water 
line. The Turtle had been designed to help win 
the Revolutionary War and it was consequently 
employed to attack the British fleet which block- 



aded New York Harbor. The attack took place 
in 1777. The Turtle, manned by Sergeant Ezra 
Lee, was towed by a rowboat beyond Governor’s 
Island under the cover of darkness, submerged 
and attacked one of the British men-of-war. It 
seems that Ezra Lee picked a spot where solid 
iron bracings held the rudder of the vessel in 
place — he could not see when submerged — at any 
event his screw failed to bite, the incoming tide 
tried to sweep the Turtle away and after some 
twenty minutes the air got so bad that Lee had to 
come to the surface. It was light enough to see 
clearly by then; he had to flee and abandon the 
mine which exploded harmlessly in the middle 
of the harbor. But Lee and the Turtle got away, 
David Bushnell’s first and only submarine was 
later sunk ingloriously while aboard a ship which 
was to transport it elsewhere for another attempt 
at warlike action. 

I do not know how the charge carried by the 
Turtle was called, nor whether Bushnell, Lee or 
anybody else went to the trouble of inventing 
a special name for it. The man who coined a 
name for underwater charges was Robert Fulton. 
His term was “torpedo” which then did not mean 
a weapon of naval warfare but simply the electric 
eel of South American rivers. It seems, however, 
that this name took hold in America only for 
quite a number of decades to come. Farragut, in 
the battle of Mobile Bay, ordered his captains 
to “damn the torpedoes” — moored mines, in our 
terminology — but British writers were more likely 
to speak of “infernal machines” when referring to 
mines. The term “mine" seems to have origi- 
nated with German writers who compared the 
submerged explosive charge to the buried explo- 



46 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



sive charge of land warfare. And since the buried 
explosive charge could be placed under the posi- 
tion of the enemy only by a kind of mining opera- 
tion it had been referred to as a mine since about 
1500. 

It is hard to say who really invented the naval 
mine — historians of warfare have agreed to con- 
fer this honor upon an Italian, Federigo Gianibelli 
of Mantua. The year of the invention was the 
year 1585 and the place the city of Antwerp. 

The Netherlands were under enemy occupa- 
tion then, fighting for her life against Spain. The 
city of Antwerp was still holding out, getting 
supplies by means of ships sailing up the Schelde 
River right into the city and right under the noses 
of the Spaniards. Antwerp, it seems, could pay 
well for any kind of war risk. Finally the Duke 
of Parma decided to put a stop to this "smug- 
gling” and had a sturdy bridge built across the 
wide river. It was a masterpiece of engineering 
for its time, twenty-four hundred feet long, with 
a fort at each end and protected by one hundred 
and seventy big guns, not counting the batteries 
on the war vessels stationed next to the bridge. 
Heavy Boating rafts were anchored above and be- 
low the bridge for additional protection, “one bow- 
shot away,” as the old descriptions say. 

The Antwerpers knew that they had either to 
starve and surrender or to destroy the bridge, and 
plans for an enormous vessel, designed to carry 
one thousand soldiers for a mighty assault, were 
drawn up. Then Gianibelli came with a plan 
of his own. He was at first refused, but then given 
two small vessels, of sixty and seventy tons re- 
spectively, named Fortune and Hope. 

Gianibelli proceeded quickly to have them con- 
verted into what later was called a Demon Ship. 
A solid floor of masonry was placed along the 
bottom of the ships. On that floor he built the 
“crater,” a box of masonry forty feet long, three 
and one half feet high by three and one half feet 
wide. The walls were five feet thick. The 
"crater” was then packed with cannon powder 
and covered by a six-foot roof, consisting of tomb- 
stones placed on edge. The space between the 
masonry box and the hull of the ships was filled 
with cannon balls, old chains, stones, marble slabs 
and anything heavy that came, to hand. Then 
the whole was floored over and some wood was 
heaped on the deck. 

In March, 1585, everything was ready for the 
attack. A large number of small vessels, heaped 
with dry wood and set afire, was sent drifting 
down the river, the Spaniards were to believe that 
the Antwerpers wanted to set their bridge afire. 
They did believe it and were greatly amused by 
the idea; laughing and joking, they roved to the 
burning vessels, boarded them and pulled the 
fires apart. Then the Fortune drifted down, with 



a small fire blazing on her top deck and a slow 
fuse burning inside to fire the "crater.” She ran 
aground, the Spaniards boarded her and extin- 
guished the fire. Nothing else happened, the fuse 
must have gone out earlier. Finally the Hope 
came drifting down, also with a small fire on her 
deck, but with a clockwork mechanism instead 
of a slow fuse. 

She ran into the bridge near one shore and was 
boarded. Soldiers busily pulled the glowing em- 
bers apart and threw them overboard into the 
river when the clockwork struck the spark that 
was to ignite the “crater.” It did — in one enor- 
mous flash the Hope, the soldiers who had boarded 
her, several vessels surrounding her, one of the 
two bridge garrisons and fully half of the bridge 
disappeared. The bottom of the river was dry 
for a moment, then the water rushed in and swept 
splinters and corpses away. The bridge was de- 
stroyed, a thousand enemies killed in one instant. 

If the Dutch had attacked as planned, they 
would have won — but their admiral, Jacobzoon 
by name, was frightened himself and did not issue 
any orders. Some time later Antwerp fell, but 
Gianibelli had meanwhile disappeared. It was 
later learned that Queen Elizabeth had called him 
to London. What he actually did is not known, 
but the Spanish armada lived in constant fear 
of the Demon Ships and once a part of it was 
destroyed because it ran away from small burning 
but otherwise harmless vessels — having been de- 
liberately fooled into believing that they were 
Demon Ships. 

The Hope is now classified as what it was, a 
gigantic floating mine, a weapon that is by no 
means obsolete as the British proved when they 
ran the explosive-laden old United States de- 
stroyer, Campbeltown, into the lock gates at St. 
Nazaire. 

The first stationary — moored — naval mines did 
not appear until about three hundred and fifty 
years after Gianibelli’s exploit. They were sown 
in the waters of the Black Sea during the Crimean 
War and they harassed the movements of the 
British fleet blockading Kronstadt, the harbor of 
St. Petersburg — now Leningrad. 

Little is known about the mines used in the 
Black Sea, except that they caused no important 
damage since they were treated with the utmost 
respect by both sides. The Kronstadt mines did 
not do any better as far as effectiveness is con- 
cerned but the more important details of their 
construction have been preserved by a British 
naval officer whose account was published in Wil- 
liam F. Williams’ "England’s Battles by Sea and 
Land,” which was published in 1856. Referring to 
them as “infernal machines,” the officer wrote: 

Each machine consists of a cone of galvanized iron, 
sixteen inches in diameter at the base, and twenty inches 
from base to apex, and is divided into three chambers; 



DEATH UNDER THE SEA 



47 



the one near the base being largest and containing air, 
causes it to float with the baBe uppermost. In the center 
of this chamber is another which holds a tube with a fuse 
in it, and an apparatus for firing it. This consists of two 
little iron rods, which move in guides, and are kept pro- 
jected over the side of the base by springs which press 
them outward. When anything pushes either of these 
rods inward, it strikes against a lever which moves like 
a pendulum, in the fuse tube, and the lower end of the 
lever bends or breaks a small leaden tube, containing a 
combustible compound, which is set on fire by coming 
in contact with some sulphuric acid held in the capillary 
tube, which is broken at the same time, and so fires the 
fuse which communicates with the powder — about nine 
or ten pounds — contained in the chamber at the apex of 
the cone. At the extreme apex is a brass ring, which is 
attached to a rope and some pieces of granite, which 
moors them about nine or ten feet below the surface — 

These submerged mines were probably regarded 
mainly as a curiosity, something some Russians 
had dreamed up during long winter evenings but 
something that was not to be feared very much 
as a weapon of war, especially since the experi- 
ences of the campaign had shown that they did 
little damage. 

This idea was to undergo a fairly sudden and 
quite complete revision some ten years later, when 
the American Civil War came. The Confederates 
soon noticed to their dismay that they were ex- 
tremely vulnerable against naval attack. The 
Confederacy had not a single real warship of its 
own, but many of its important cities were either 
directly at the shore or situated not far from the 
shore on large and deep rivers. A Federal war- 
ship could have sailed up the James River right 
into the heart of Richmond. Something had to 
be done about it and it had to be done quickly. 
Submerged mines were suggested by literally 
scores of people and the suggestion was finally 
adopted. While the first Confederate mines re- 
sembled the Russian Kronstadt mines in outward 
appearance their design was new — in fact Con- 
federate engineers hurriedly invented the proto- 
types of most modern naval mines in existence. 

Their mines consisted of a truncated cone, made 
of one-half-inch boiler plate or any other heavy 
sheet metal that came to hand. The lower half 
of the inverted cone was filled with cannon pow- 
der, the upper half left empty to provide buoy- 
ancy. Through the center of the air space a 
thin-walled tube was inserted, its lower half filled 
with fine-grain rifle powder, its upper half with a 
mixture of powdered sugar and chlorate of po- 
tassium. On top of that mixture a glass tube 
containing concentrated sulphuric acid was 
mounted; it projected through a hole in the cover 
to the outside. For protection this glass tube 
was surrounded by a sheath of copper or lead. 
Some of the later designs had four or five such 
“horns," jutting out at various angles. When a 
ship’s bottom hit the mine which was moored 
under water like the Russian mines, it bent the 




the Civil War. 

1. Delayed action fuse. 

2. Air space for buoyancy. 

3. Demolition charge ol cannon powder. 

4. Mooring cable. 

Detail of fuse: A. Glass tube filled with concentrated 
sulphuric acid. B. Mixture of chlorate of potassium 
and powder sugar. C. Fine grain gunpowder. 



leaden horn, breaking the glass tube. The sul- 
phuric acid flowed out, dripped into the mixture 
of chlorate of potassium and powdered sugar and 
caused a chemical reaction generating enough 
heat to ignite the fine-grained powder. This, in 
turn, set off the cannon-powder charge. 

But these automatic or contact mines had a big 
drawback. They would explode indiscriminately 
when rammed by a ship, not waiting to see whether 
it was an enemy or a friendly vessel. Conse- 
quently the Confederates set out to construct “ob- 
servation" or controlled mines, mines which would 
be exploded from an observation post ashore. The 



48 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



first attempt consisted of a moored mine with a 
friction primer. 

To explode the mine somebody had to jerk a 
line from the shore. That arrangement worked 
fairly well during experimental tests, but poorly 
under normal conditions, i. e., with a line longer 
than about twenty yards. There was no other 
solution than electric ignition and an officer with 
some specialized knowledge, Lieutenant Hunter 
Davidson, was put in charge of the work. He 
soon found out that he was severely handicapped 
by lack of raw materials. After scraping all use- 
ful supplies in the Confederacy together he had 
a little less than four miles of insulated copper 
wire and four or five feet of thin platinum wire. 
And all the acids — for the batteries — that could 
be had were those in stock in local apothecaries’ 
stores. 

The electric fuse developed by Lieutenant 
Davidson consisted of a half-inch goose quill, 
filled with fulminate of mercury and plugged with 
beeswax at both ends after threading a fine plati- 
num wire through the quill. The ends of the plati- 
num wire were then connected to the end of in- 
sulated copper wire and the whole placed inside 
a red flannel cartridge cloth bag filled with rifle 
powder. The demolition charge of the mine con- 
sisted of cannon powder, incased in the usual 
cone of half-inch boiler plate. 

The first three of the new electric mines had 
to be given up. They had been placed in the 
Rappahannock River, but a Negro had informed 
the Federals about their location. Two others, 
each containing a full one thousand pounds of 
cannon powder were placed in the James River 
and one of them almost destroyed a Federal gun- 
boat. It failed to do so only because the watcher 
was nervous and exploded the mine when the 
gunboat was still ninety feet away. The water- 
spout was enormous, it smashed the guards of 
the gunboat and washed six men overboard. The 
captain turned his ship around, picked up his 
men and proceeded down river, passing over the 
second mine — but the watcher had unwittingly 
emulated Admiral Jacobzoon and had run away, 
overawed by the explosion. 

Some time later, a Federal warship was ac- 
tually sunk by an electric two-thousand-pound 
mine, the first warship ever to be destroyed by 
the new weapon. The sinking occurred at Deep 
Bottom in the James River, sixty of the crew of 
two hundred were killed by the explosion or 
drowned. 

When the British fleet blockaded Kronstadt, 
wondering about the Russian mines and whether 
they would work or not, another danger seemed to 
be getting ready inside that harbor. Years be- 
fore, a Bavarian by the name of Wilhelm Bauer, 
a low-ranking noncommissioned officer of a regi- 
ment of artillery, had built a small hand-powered 



submarine. During its first test run it had sunk 
in the harbor of Kiel, but every expert knew that 
that had happened because a commission of 
“economy experts” had forced him to use boiler 
plate half as thick as he had planned and had 
greatly “simplified” the design. Now this man 
Bauer had been hired by the Russian Grand Duke 
Aleksandr to build him a much larger subma- 
rine. Money did not matter; he might be success- 
ful this time. He was ; his second submarine made 
more than one hundred and fifty successful under- 
water runs, but it did not see any action. The 
British did not experience a submarine attack 
then, which would have been the second in the 
history of their navy. 

But submarines did play a role in the Civil 
War. And the weapon they used was rather odd; 
it is now known as a spar torpedo. It consisted 
of a copper cylinder, holding some ninety pounds 
of cannon powder, and fastened to the end of a 
long spar or boom. Like the modern torpedo it 
was used by two types of craft, by true sub- 
marines and by small surface craft. 

At first the Confederates had put some trust 
in a so-called line torpedo, a contact mine towed 
behind the submarine on a three-hundred-yard 
line. The theory was that the submarine would 
approach the enemy surfaced, then dive under the 
enemy vessel and surface again, so that the towed 
mine would strike the vessel on the side away 
from the submarine. It worked that way during 
tests on a smooth inland lake, but proved too 
dangerous to the submarine in the choppy water 
of the open sea. The spar torpedo was then sub- 
stituted for the line torpedo. 

Since the submarines of the Confederacy proved 
very dangerous to their own crews — the first of 
them had to be scuttled in the Bayou St. John, 
the second had foundered in Mobile Bay when 
a sudden squall blew up and the third, the Hun- 
Iey, had drowned thirty-five men in five sinkings 
before seeing its first and final action — the spar 
torpedoes were used from small surface craft first. 
There were the so-called Davids, small steam- 
propelled craft with hardly any freeboard, carry- 
ing a spar torpedo in front. Ordinarily the spar 
torpedo was raised out of the water to prevent ac- 
cidental explosion from striking driftwood, it 
was lowered into the water immediately before 
striking the target. 

The first David attacked the Federal ironclad 
New Ironsides with a sixty-pound spar torpedo 
in the late evening of October S, 1863. Lieuten- 
ant Glassell, the commander of the vessel, steamed 
far out to approach his victim from seaward. 
This method worked, when it was sighted by the 
lookouts on the New Ironsides it was already 
too close for the big guns of the ironclad. A 
few musket shots were fired in a hurry, then 



DEATH UNDER THE SEA 



49 




The laying of a barrage mine progresses in four (automatic) steps. A. The mine, having just been dumped overboard 
by the mine-laying vessels, floats at the surface. B. The plummet begins to unreel until its line has attained the length 
for which it has been set, in this case fifteen feet. C. As soon as the plummet line has reached full length, the box an- 
chor begins to sink, meanwhile unreeling the mooring cable. D. When the plummet touches the bottom, the winch 
of the mooring cable is arrested. Box anchor sinks to the bottom, dragging the mine below the surface. This way 
a certain depth for the mine is insured, its depth below the surface is the same as the length of the plummet line. 



the torpedo touched. But the New Ironsides suf- 
fered only negligible damage, she was too pow- 
erful to be ruined by sixty pounds of weak gun- 
powder. The crew of the David was thrown over- 
board by the explosion, or jumped and generally 
give their own vessel up as lost. One of the 
men clambered up on the New Ironsides and was 
t^ken prisoner. The commander was picked up 
by a Northern coal schooner and suffered the 
same fate. The machinist swam around in the dark 
for quite 6ome time and found, finally, to his great 
surprise, the David still afloat, with the pilot, who 
could not swim, desperately clinging to the gun- 
wale. Together the two men got the engine work- 
ing and took the David back to Charleston. Eight 
more Davids were built, but did not see action. 

In February, 1864, the third Confederate sub- 
marine, the Hunley, was at last ready for action. 
It attacked the Union fleet on February 17th, pick- 
ing the corvette Housatonic as its victim. Be- 
cause of the bad record of the Hunley the crew 
was apparently scared to dive and attacked in an 
awash position, with hatches open. The Housa- 
tonic sank — first warship to be destroyed by a 



submarine — but since the water was only twenty- 
eight feet deep at that spot most of the crew 
saved themselves by climbing into the rigging. 
The Hunley sank with all hands aboard. Divers 
later found the submarine one hundred feet from 
the wreck of the Housatonic, without apparent 
damage. 

Not all attacks with spar torpedoes were as 
suicidal. In October, 1864, Lieutenant Cushing 
“torpedoed” the Confederate ironclad Albemarle 
by means of a steam launch on the Roanoke River. 
The ironclad was surrounded with floating logs 
for just such an attack, but Lieutenant Cushing 
managed to break through. The Albemarle and 
the steam launch sank, but Lieutenant Cushing 
saved himself by jumping overboard in time and 
swimming to the shore. 

When the Civil War was over and war experts 
had examined all the data carefully and at leisure 
the results amounted to a confirmation of Ful- 
ton’s early dreams. Submarines were feasible, and 
so were mine barrages. So was the spar torpedo, 
also advocated by Fulton — but it was too sui- 



50 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



cidal. What had to be done was to improve on 
mines, build submarines that were safe to use and 
invent a torpedo that would have motive power 
of its own. 

It was the last problem that was attacked first. 
Numerous types were invented, some of them 
containing electric motors, some being made 
heavier than water and suspended by ten-foot 
chains from a small surface float which housed the 
engine. All of them had to trail wires for power 
and for control; wires which fouled or became 
short-circuited with annoying regularity. Even 
when everything worked as anticipated the speeds 
obtained were too slow. The American navy spent 
much time and money on experiments with the 
so-called Howell torpedo, the motive power of 
which consisted of a heavy steel flywheel mounted 
inside. The flywheel was made to rotate rapidly 
by outside power ; its axle was then connected with 
the drive shaft of the propeller immediately be- 
fore launching. It was an ingenious solution of 
the power problem, but the flywheel could not 
store enough energy. And in the meantime the 
torpedo of today, the Whitehead torpedo, had 
been invented. 

The Whitehead torpedo is a complete small 
submarine, carrying a large charge of high 
explosive in its head. One may say that it is a 
“Demon Ship,” reduced in size and converted into 
a submarine. To conceive the Whitehead torpedo 
one had to imagine a model submarine, launched 
bodily at the enemy. The father of this idea, it is 
said, is the Austrian Captain Luppis. And it is 
all too likely that Luppis took his cue from 
Wilhelm Bauer. 

Before Bauer was called by Grand Duke Alek- 
sandr he had tried to sell his submarine to Eng- 
land, to France and to Austria, traveling around 
with a working model five or six feet long. He 
had demonstrated this model to the emperor of 
Austria in the Adriatic Sea, a demonstration which 
was highly successful but without consequences. 
It is probable that Captain Luppis witnessed the 
demonstration, or heard about it from a witness. 
Being anything but a mechanic himself, he ap- 
proached the manager of an engineering firm in 
Fiume, a Scotsman by the name of Robert White- 
head. 

Whitehead was interested and went to work on 
a model, having only his son and one workman 
helping him, to insure secrecy. For this reason it 
took over two years until the first Whitehead 
torpedo was finished (1865). It weighed about three 
hundred pounds, carried a charge of eighteen 
pounds and moved all of six m. p. h. But it 
worked and increasing size and speed was only 
a question of time. 

At first two standard sizes were adopted by most 
navies, the fourteen-inch and the eighteen-inch 
torpedoes. The smaller type weighed a little more 



than seven hundred pounds, carried a charge of 
one hundred fifteen pounds of guncotton and made 
thirty knots for the first six hundred yards of its 
run. The larger variety weighed one thousand 
one hundred fifty pounds, carried a charge of one 
hundred thirty-three pounds and ran twenty-nine 
knots over the first nine hundred yards. 

There are still two sizes of torpedoes in use, 
the naval torpedo and the airplane torpedo, the 
latter being dropped by torpedo-carrying airplanes 
and fired by "pocket submarines” or very small 
surface craft. The naval type is about eighteen 
feet long and has a diameter of twenty-one inches, 
the high-explosive charge consists of five hundred 
pounds of TNT, the speed is officially given as 
thirty-six m. p. h., but seems to be above forty 
m. p. h. While the full range exceeds eight thou- 
sand yards, that accuracy is poor above two thou- 
sand yards. The dimensions of the smaller air- 
plane torpedoes are secret, but a British aviation 
magazine published those of the German variety. 
They have a diameter of eighteen inches, weigh 
fifteen hundred pounds and carry a charge of four 
hundred ten pounds. The range was found to be 
only two thousand yards, the speed "high.” The 
weight and size reduction has been accomplished, 
therefore, mainly at the expense of the machinery, 
only to a small extent at the expense of the demo- 
lition charge. 

All modern torpedoes consist of two parts: the 
“model submarine” and the "head.” The latter 
comes in three varieties. One is the war head, 
consisting of the high-explosive charge and a 
device called the "pistol” which fires that charge. 
This is the head for actual combat use. For prac- 
tice firing there are two types of heads. If it is the 
machinery of the torpedo that is to be tested, a 
"blowing head” is attached to it. It is filled with 
enough water to make it weigh as much as a war 
head. When the torpedo has run out of power, a 
small flask of compressed air forces the water out 
of the head so that the torpedo floats to the 
surface and can be picked up. If the torpedo is 
fired for target practice, it is fitted with a "colli- 
sion head,” designed to absorb the shock of the 
impact. 

The submarine part of the torpedo is completely 
taken up by fuel containers and machinery. The 
engine consumes a mixture of fuel oil vapor and 
compressed air, augmented by a thin jet of water 
which is converted into live steam and thus in- 
creases the bulk of the combustion gases. There 
are two screws rotating in opposite directions to 
eliminate torque, there are horizontal and vertical 
stabilizing vanes and rudders, there are gyro 
mechanisms for maintaining the course and the 
depth for which the torpedo has been set, the latter 
varying from about five to about thirty feet. But 
submarines can fire torpedoes when at a depth of 



DEATH UNDER THE SEA 



51 



seventy-five feet below the surface and airplanes 
drop their torpedoes from fifty to one hundred 
feet above the surface — the torpedoes rise or sink 
automatically to the depth for which their mechan- 
ism has been adjusted. 

By the time these torpedoes were fully developed 
the first modern submarines were ready to use 
them. The Davids had been re-created as torpedo 
boats and, somewhat incidentally, mines had been 
modernized. Then the Russo-Japanese War came 
with plenty of naval action. And after it was over 
and the heavy ship losses sustained by both sides 
had been tabulated as to causes, everybody was 
greatly surprised to see that no ship had been 
sunk by torpedo hits, but that many had succumbed 
to mines.* 

Evidently mines were worth more than anybody 
had thought — and this realization had two widely 
divergent results. One consisted simply and 
plainly in increased activity of the proper sections 
in the various navy departments. The other con- 
sisted in thirteen articles drawn up at the Second 
Hague Conference in 1907 which all but outlawed 
naval mines. Mines were not to be laid in waters 
where they might harm neutral shipping, mines 
were not to be laid off the enemy’s coast for the 
purpose of intercepting purely commercial ship- 
ping, et cetera, et cetera. That convention had 
precisely the same effect as any too severe law, 
nobody tried any too hard to obey it knowing 
that nobody else would. In fact, the first German 
ship loss during the first World War was the 
converted mine-layer Ktinigin Luise, caught while 
mining British waters and not long after the Ger- 
mans lost a vessel which ran into a British mine 
in German waters. 

Generally speaking, however, the British ad- 
miralty was caught napping as far as mines were 
concerned. They had only small stores — some 
twenty thousand or so — and most of them had to 
be swept up again after they had been laid, being 
found unreliable and defective. American pro- 
ductive capacity saved the day, and American pro- 
ductive capacity resulted in the largest single job 
of mine laying ever done: the Great North Sea 
Barrage. But first another invention had to be 
made. 



The improvements of mines made since the 
time Confederate engineers invented their "tor- 
pedoes” hurriedly, concerned mainly two things — 
manufacture and method of mooring. The spheri- 
cal shell had been adopted generally, with a 
separate cylindrical charge fitted inside, thus pro- 
viding buoyancy space. The mooring had been 
greatly improved, mines adjusted themselves auto- 



r the causes of ship sinkings 
t might be expected. Of the 
...o' hundred twenty, mines for about one hun- 
dred eighty, airplanes — both bombs and torpedoes — for about 
— .. — j — J ...o... •— for the remainder. 



Even today the tabulations c 
w figures different from whs 
t eight hundred ships 



matically to any depth of water within wide limits. 
This was accomplished by designing a box anchor 
with a separate small weight, called plummet, and 
an automatic winch inside the box. The plummet 
line was “set” for a certain depth, say fifteen feet, 
then the whole mine wa6 thrown overboard. For 
a moment it floated at the surface while the plum- 
met line ran out to the full length for which it 
had been set. Then the weight of the plummet 
released the catch of the winch, the mooring cable 
was payed out and the box anchor, with the plum- 
met line dangling down from it, began to sink. 
As soon as the plummet touched bottom, the winch 
was arrested, the heavy box anchor, sinking to 
the bottom of necessity pulled the mine down, to 
precisely the same depth as the original length of 
the plummet line. 

Little changes had been made in the fuse 
mechanism, however. There were still the two 
types used during the Civil War; the one ignited 
electrically by an observer and the other with 
horns, exploding when a vessel bent the horn. 
A safety mechanism had been added in the form 
of a hydrostatic switch, the mine could explode 
only when water pressure forced that switch in- 
ward. 

What was lacking was a large radius of action. 
The explosion of three hundred pounds of TNT 
would push the hull of a vessel in, even when the 
vessel was fifteen or twenty feet away. But the 
mine did not respond to a vessel that did not 
touch it directly. This meant that mines had to 
be laid very densely to close a waterway effectively. 
The British had mined the Channel with fair suc- 
cess, but there existed a plan of closing the North 
Sea in the North, too, by means of a barrage 
stretching from Scotland to Norway. The Chan- 
nel barrage was some twenty miles long, the 
Scotland-Norway barrage would be two hundred 
fifty miles long, requiring roughly a thousand 
mines per mile to be sufficiently dense for surface 
craft and U-boats alike. 

It was then that Ralph Cowan Browne of Salem, 
Massachusetts, invented a new type of mine. He 
took an ordinary barrage mine with horns and 
added two things: an electric detonator and a 
thin copper cable, adjustable like the plummet line, 
but with a hollow copper float at its end, instead of 
a solid leaden plummet. Thus a copper wire ex- 
tended upward from the mine — and when an iron 
hull touched the copper wire in the salt solution 
called sea water it was precisely the right electro- 
chemical combination for the electric detonator to 
work on. The antenna, as it was called, increased 
the danger orbit of each mine from three to thirty 
feet; the mining of the North Sea could be begun. 

Nine thousand five hundred mines, laid in twenty 
parallel rows, were used to block the Channel 
again; simultaneously the British began to mine 
the area east of the Orkney Islands and Scapa 



52 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




Length: 18 feet. 



(1) "Pistol" consisting of a plunger which, on impact, 
fires a percussion cap. The percussion cap fires the 
priming charge, which in turn sets off (2) 500 pounds 
of TNT. (3) Container for compressed air. (4) Con- 
tainer for fuel oil. (5) Stabilizer vanes. (6) Twin pro- 
peller rotating in opposite directions. (7) Rudders. 
(8) Steering and depth-setting gear. (9) Combustion 
chamber, air and engine. (10) Container for water. 



Flow, leaving only a carefully watched ten-mile 
channel near the islands, for the emergency use 
of the Grand Fleet. Pushing eastward from that 
area the United States navy laid fifty-six thou- 
sand six hundred eleven mines in a sector one 
hundred thirty miles in length, the final gap east 
of that sector was closed by the Royal and the 
United States navies in collaboration. The British 
total in that barrage was fifteen thousand ninety- 
three mines, but most of them were of American 
manufacture. The more difficult job, brilliantly 
executed throughout, was the removal of those 
mines after the war was over, not the laying.* 



It is not very well known that mine sweeping 
is a Russian invention. When the waters of the 
Black Sea were infested with mines during the 
Crimean War the Russians dispatched small ves- 
sels to drag weighed lines through the water. The 
lines were to break the mines from their moorings 
so that they could be destroyed by means of rifle 
fire. This method was then regarded as a make- 
shift, especially because of the loss of some of 
the mine-sweeping vessels. But when the Fed- 
erals had to clean up rivers in which Confederate 
mines were hidden they could not think of a 
better way and the method is still essentially the 
same. The only major change occurred when 
Lieutenant Commander Sir C. D. Burney, R. N., 
invented the paravane in 1916, enabling single ves- 
sels — instead of pairs — to sweep for mines. 

Looking like a ten-foot model of a strange air- 
plane with stubby wings, the paravane stays away 
from the ship and at a predetermined depth when 
being towed. The towing cable engages the moor- 
ing cable of the mine and guides it into a cutting 
blade. Released mines, which float to the surface, 
are then disposed of by rifle and machine-gun fire. 
Antenna mines are, incidentally, much easier to 
sweep, when the steel cable touches the copper 
antenna they simply blow up. 

Since the Great North Sea Barrage was laid 
down and taken up again a few new types of 
mines have made their appearance. One of them 
is a free floating type, the "legitimate use" of 
which is to be thrown into its wake by a fleeing 
vessel so that the pursuers may run into it. Such 
mines are to be designed in such a way that they 



• The western sector of the North Son Barrage, beginning 
ten miles oast of the Orkneys and extending fifty miles east- 
ward from that line, consisted of nine lines of United States 
mines dangerous to surfuce craft and to submarines at 
periscope depth, three linos of United States mines at one 
hundred sixty feet and three lines of United States mines at 
two hundred forty feet, all with long antonnm giving them a 
danger orbit of some seventy feet. The center sector was one 
hundred thirty miles long and consisted of one line of British 
mines dangercus to surfuoo craft, one line of British mines 
at nine-five feet, eight lines of United States mines danger- 
ous to surface craft and to submarines nt periscope depth 
and four more lines of United States mines, two at ono hun- 
dred sixty and two at two hundred forty feet with seventy- 
foot antennas. The eastern sector near the Norwegian coast 
was sixty miles long and consisted of eight lines of British 
mines, two each at fifteen, sixty-five, ninety-flve ami one 
hundred twenty-five feet, reinforced by four lines of antenna 
near the surface. To make sure 
jrn sectors touched six lines of 
: the junction where a mistake 
• i gap. 



DEATH UNDER THE SEA 



53 



stay afloat for only one hour and then become 
harmless. The special variety I have in mind 
here was invented by the Swedish captain, Karl 
Iskar Leon. It consists of a steel cylinder with 
the TNT charge, fitted with a contact fuse, a hy- 
drostatic switch, a small electric motor, an elec- 
tric battery and a small propeller. It swims, or 
rather sinks, in a vertical position, with the pro- 
peller at its base. Upon reaching a certain depth 
the hydrostatic switch closes the circuit, the pro- 
peller begins to turn and pushes the mine to the 
surface. There the circuit is broken, the mine 
sinks again and the cycle starts anew, until the 
battery is exhausted. 

Another new type of mine, which received 
much publicity, was the German magnetic mine, 
sown by means of parachutes from airplanes into 
the shallow waters of English rivers and estuaries. 
These mines were shaped like airplane bombs, 
made entirely of nonmagnetic metals — mainly 
aluminum — and weighed twelve hundred pounds, 
with a high-explosive charge of six hundred 
sixty pounds or three hundred kilograms. The 
diameter waB about two feet, the length eight feet, 
dimensions obviously chosen to make the mines 
fit into the attachments of torpedo-carrying air- 
planes. Being heavier than water they sank to 
the bottom. The usual hydrostatic switch made 
them stay harmless as long as they were sub- 
jected to atmospheric pressure only. This is the 
reason why their construction is known: Com- 
mander J. G. D. Ouvry of HMS Vernon suc- 
ceeded in taking one that had dropped on the 
bank of a river apart without being blown to 
pieces.* 

Misled by the term "magnetic mine,” some 
writers told fanciful tales how these mines rise 
from the bottom mud and follow iron ships, be- 
ing attracted by their hulls and machinery. Ac- 
tually nothing of the sort happens. The name 
refers only to the detonating mechanism which 
responds to the magnetic field created by a large 
mass of iron and explodes the charge when that 
field reaches a certain intensity. Once this was 
known it was easy to find remedies doing both, 



•Aa a kind of '‘reprisal action” the German radio an- 
nounced eoon after that 1IUB Vernon had been aunk by a 
German submarine or a German mine. This was decidedly 
peculiar, Inasmuch aa 1IUB Vernon la. not the name of a ship. 
It la the name of the Mine School, the division for mine 
of the Royal Navy 



exploding the mines at will and protecting the 
ships. The first was accomplished by towing 
powerful electromagnets on floats behind wooden 
ships. The second was done with the so-called 
degaussing belt, a device creating an artificial 
counterfield to neutralize the natural magnetic 
field of the vessel. 

The Germans, thereupon, discontinued the use 
of magnetic mines and substituted acoustic mines, 
with a detonating mechanism sensitive to the 
sound of a ship’s engines. So far their construc- 
tion has not been revealed but it has been re- 
ported that these mines are as easy to deal with 
as magnetic mines. 

This article would be incomplete, however, if 
one naval weapon were not mentioned which is 
closely related to the naval mine: the depth charge. 
When Robert Fulton built his Nautilus and de- 
signed his “torpedoes” he failed to conceive a 
weapon which would be useful to combat enemy 
undersea craft. It is possible that he doubted 
there could be such a weapon — many naval ex- 
perts wondered just what could be used against 
a submerged submarine. 

The answer was simple : a mine. A barrage mine 
when a passage was to be blocked to submarines 
— the North Sea Barrage accounted for about a 
dozen known — and a free mine when a sub was 
caught on the high seas. Not a floating mine, of 
course, but a sinking mine, a mine without air 
space for buoyancy and with a hydrostatic switch 
that was coupled with the fuse mechanism to ex- 
plode the mine at or near the suspected depth 
of the submarine. Since water is to all intents 
and purposes incompressible, any explosion under 
water assumes the character of a sudden and ir- 
resistible “squeeze." It works on the water, too, 
of course, but unlike the hull of a submarine, 
water cannot be squeezed effectively. 

This goes for all explosions occurring under 
water and it is the reason why torpedoes and mines 
of all types are so potent and why a very close 
miss of an airplane bomb or an artillery shell 
might cause more severe damage than a direct 
hit. The direct hit may blow off a deck, damage 
superstructure and annoy the crew; the near miss, 
its pressure transmitted by the incompressible 
water, is apt to stave in the sides below the water 
line. 



THE END. 



54 




NERVES 

By tester del Rey 

• A company doctor, simply caring for the men in a big indus- 
trial plant, doesn't ordinarily lead a particularly exciting life. 
But when its National Atomic Products, and an atomic furnace 
gives way, releasing unknown, unstable and deadly products— 



Illustrated by Orban 



I. 

The graveled walks between the sprawling, 
utilitarian structures of the National Atomic Prod- 
ucts Co., Inc., were crowded with the usual five- 
o’clock mass of young huskies just off work or 
going on the extra shift, and the company cafeteria 
was jammed to capacity and overflowing. But 
they made good-natured way for Doc Ferrel as 
he came out, not bothering to stop their horseplay 
as they would have done with any of the other 
half hundred officials of the company. He’d been 
just Doc to them too long for any need of for- 
mality. 

He nodded back at them easily, pushed through, 
and went down the walk toward the Infirmary 
Building, taking his own time; when a man has 



turned fifty, with gray hairs and enlarged waist- 
line to show for it, he begins to realize that com- 
fort and relaxation are worth cultivating. Be- 
sides, Doc could see no good reason for filling his 
stomach with food and then rushing around in a 
flurry that gave him no chance to digest it. He let 
himself in the side entrance, palming his cigar 
out of long habit, and passed through the surgery 
to the door marked : 

PRIVATE 

ROGER T. FERREL 
PHYSICIAN IN CHARGE 

As always, the little room was heavy with the 
odor of stale smoke and littered with scraps of 
this and that. His assistant was already there, 



NERVES 



55 



rummaging busily through the desk with the brass 
nerve that was typical of him; Ferrel had no ob- 
jections to it, though, since Blake’s rock-steady 
hands and unruffled brain were always dependable 
in a pinch of any sort. 

Blake looked up and grinned confidently. “Hi, 
Doc. Where the deuce do you keep your ciga- 
rettes, anyway? Never mind, got ’em. . . . Ah, 
that’s better ! Good thing there’s one room in this 
darned building where the ‘No Smoking’ signs 
don’t count. You and the wife coming out this 
evening?” 

"Not a chance, Blake.” Ferrel stuck the cigar 
back in his mouth and settled down into the old 
leather chair, shaking his head. "Palmer phoned 
down half an hour ago to ask me if I’d stick 
through the graveyard shift. Seems the plant’s 
got a rush order for some particular batch of dust 
that takes about twelve hours to cook, so they’ll 
be running No. 3 and 4 till midnight or later.” 

“Hm-m-m. So you're hooked again. I don't see 
why any of us has to stick here — nothing serious 
ever pops up now. Look what I had today; three 
cases of athlete’s foot — better send a memo down 
to the showers for extra disinfection — a guy with 
dandruff, four running noses, and the office boy 
with a sliver in his thumb I They bring everything 
to us except their babies — and they'd have them 
here if they could — but nothing that couldn’t wait 
a week or a month. Anne’s been counting on you 
and the missus, Doc; she’ll be disappointed if you 
aren’t there to celebrate her sticking ten years 
with me. Why don’t you let the kid stick it out 
alone tonight?” 

"I wish I could, but this happens to be my job. 
As a matter of fact, though, Jenkins worked up an 
acute case of duty and decided to stay on with 
me tonight.” Ferrel twitched his lips in a stiff 
smile, remembering back to the time when his 
waistline had been smaller than his chest and he’d 
gone through the same feeling that destiny had 
singled him out to save the world. “The kid had 
his first real case today, and he’s all puffed up. 
Handled it all by himself, so he’s now Dr. Jenkins, 
if you please.” 

Blake had his own memories. “Yeah? Wonder 
when he’ll realize that everything he did by him- 
self came from your hints? What was it, anyway?” 

“Same old story — simple radiation burns. No 
matter how much we tell the men when they first 
come in, most of them can’t see why they should 
wear three ninety-five percent efficient shields 
when the main converter shield cuts off all but 
one-tenth percent of the radiation. Somehow, this 
fellow managed to leave off his two inner shields 
and pick up a year’s burn in six hours. Now he’s 
probably back on No. 1, still running through the 
hundred liturgies I gave him to say and hoping we 
won’t get him sacked.” 

No. 1 was the first converter around which 



National Atomic had built its present monopoly 
in artificial radioactives, back in the days when 
shields were still inefficient to one part in a 
thousand and the materials handled were milder 
than the modern ones. They still used it for the 
gentler reactions, prices of converters being what 
they were ; anyhow, if reasonable precautions were 
taken, there was no serious danger. 

“A tenth percent will kill; five percent thereof 
is one two-hundredth; five percent of that is one 
four-thousandth ; and five percent again leaves one 
eighty-thousandth, safe for all but fools.” Blake 
sing-songed the liturgy solemnly, then chuckled. 
“You’re getting old. Doc; you used to give them a 
thousand times. Well, if you get the chance, you 
and Mrs. Ferrel drop out and say hello, even if it’s 
after midnight. Anne’s gonna be disappointed, 
but she ought to know how it goes. So long.” 

“ ’Night.” Ferrel watched him leave, still smil- 
ing faintly. Some day his own son would be out 
of medical school, and Blake would make a good 
man for him to start under and begin the same 
old grind upward. First, like young Jenkins, he’d 
be filled with his mission to humanity, tense and 
uncertain, but somehow things would roll along 
through Blake’s stage and up, probably to Doc’s 
own level, where the same old problems were solved 
in the same old way, and life settled down into a 
comfortable, mellow dullness. 

There were worse lives, certainly, even though 
it wasn’t like the mass of murders, kidnapings and 
applied miracles played up in the current movie 
series about Dr. Hoozis. Come to think of it, 
Hoozis was supposed to be working in an atomic 
products plant right now — but one where chrome- 
plated converters covered with pretty neon tubes 
were mysteriously blowing up every second day, 
and men were brought in with blue flames all over 
them to be cured instantly in time to utter the 
magic words so the hero could dash in and put out 
the atomic flame barehanded. Ferrel grunted and 
reached back for his old copy of the “Decameron.” 

Then he heard Jenkins out in the surgery, put- 
tering around with quick, nervous little sounds. 
Never • do to let the boy find him loafing back 
here, when the possible fate of the world so ob- 
viously hung on his alertness. Young doctors had 
to be disillusioned slowly, or they became bitter 
and their work suffered. Yet, in spite of his amuse- 
ment at Jenkins’ nervousness, he couldn’t help 
envying the thin-faced young man’s erect shoulders 
and flat stomach. Years crept by, it seemed. 

Jenkins straightened out a wrinkle in his white 
jacket fussily and looked up. "I’ve been getting 
the surgery ready for instant use, Dr. Ferrel. Do 
you think it’s safe to keep only Miss Dodd and one 
male attendant here — shouldn’t we have more than 
the bare legally sanctioned staff?” 

“Dodd’s a one-man staff,” Ferrel assured him. 



56 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“Expecting accidents tonight?” 

“No, sir, not exactly. But do you know what 
they’re running off?" 

“No.” Ferrel hadn’t asked Palmer; he’d learned 
long before that he couldn’t keep up with the 
atomic engineering developments, and had stopped 
trying. “Some new type of atomic tank fuel for 
the army to use in its war games?” 

“Worse than that, sir. They’re making their 
first commercial run of Natomic 1-713 in both 
No. 3 and 4 converters at once.” 

“So? Seems to me I did hear something about 
that. Had to do with killing off boll weevils, 
didn’t it?” Ferrel was vaguely familiar with the 
process of sowing radioactive dust in a circle 
outside the weevil area, to isolate the pest, then 
gradually moving inward from the border. Used 
with proper precautions, it had slowly killed off 
the weevil and driven it back into half the ter- 
ritory once occupied. 

Jenkins managed to look disappointed, surprised 
and slightly superior without a visible change of 
expression. “There was an article on it in the 
Natomic Weekly Ray of last issue. Dr. Ferrel. 
You probably know that the trouble with Natomic 
1-344, which they’ve been using, was its half life 
of over four months; that made the land sowed 
useless for planting the next year, so they had to 
move very slowly. 1-713 has a half life of less 
than a week and reached safe limits in about two 
months, so they’ll be able to isolate whole strips of 
hundreds of miles during the winter and still have 
the land usable by spring. Field tests have been 
highly successful, and we’ve just gotten a huge 
order from two States that want Immediate de- 
livery.” 

“After their legislatures waited six months de- 
bating whether to use it or not,” Ferrel hazarded 
out of long experience. “Hm-m-m, sounds good 
if they can sow enough earthworms after them to 
keep the ground in good condition. But what’s 
the worry?" 

Jenkins shook his head indignantly. “I’m not 
worried. I simply think we should take every 
possible precaution and be ready for any accident; 
after all, they’re working on something new, and 
a half life of a week is rather strong, don't you 
think? Besides, I looked over some of the reaction 
charts in the article, and — What was that?” 

From somewhere to the left of the Infirmary, a 
muffled growl was being accompanied by ground 
tremors; then it gave place to a steady hissing, 
barely audible through the insulated walls of the 
building. Ferrel listened a moment and shrugged. 
“Nothing to worry about, Jenkins; you’ll hear it 
a dozen times a year. Ever since the Great War 
when he tried to commit hara-kiri over the 
treachery of his people, Hokusai’s been bugs about 
getting an atomic explosive bomb which will let us 
wipe out the rest of the world. Some day you’ll 



probably see the little guy brought in here minus 
his head, but so far he hasn’t found anything with 
short enough a half life that can be controlled until 
needed. What about the reaction charts on 1-713?" 

"Nothing definite, I suppose.” Jenkins turned 
reluctantly away from the sound, still frowning. 
“I know it worked in small lots, but there’s some- 
thing about one of the intermediate steps I distrust, 
sir. I thought I recognized ... I tried to ask one 
of the engineers about it. He practically told me 
to shut up until I'd studied atomic engineering 
myself.” 

Seeing the boy’s face whiten over tensed jaw 
muscles, Ferrel held back his smile and nodded 
slowly. Something funny there; of course, Jen- 
kins’ pride had been wounded, but hardly that 
much. Some day, he’d have to find out what was 
behind it; little things like that could ruin a man's 
steadiness with the instruments, if he kept it to 
himself. Meantime, the subject was best dropped. 

The telephone girl's heavily syllabized voice cut 
into his thoughts from the annunciator. “Dr. Fer- 
rel. Dr. Ferrel wanted on the telephone. Dr. 
Ferrel, please!” 

Jenkins’ face blanched still further, and his eyes 
darted to his superior sharply. Doc grunted casu- 
ally. "Probably Palmer’s bored and wants to tell 
me all about his grandson again. He thinks that 
child’s an all-time genius because it says two words 
at eighteen months.” 

But inside the office, he stopped to wipe his 
hands free of perspiration before answering; there 
was something contagious about Jenkins' sup- 
pressed fears. And Palmer’s face on the little tele- 
vision screen didn’t help any, though the director 
was wearing his usual set smile. Ferrel knew it 
wasn’t about the baby this time, and he was right. 

“ 'Lo, Ferrel." Palmer's heartily confident voice 
was quite normal, but the use of the last name was 
a clear sign of some trouble. “There’s been a little 
accident in the plant, they tell me. They’re bring- 
ing a few men over to the Infirmary for treatment — 
probably not right away, though. Has Blake gone 
yet?” 

“He’s been gone fifteen minutes or more. Think 
it’s serious enough to call him back, or are Jenkins 
and myself enough?” 

“Jenkins? Oh, the new doctor.” Palmer hesi- 
tated, and his arms showed quite clearly the 
doodling operations of his hands, out of sight of 
the vision cell. “No, of course, no need to call 
Blake back, I suppose — not yet. anyhow. Just 
worry anyone who saw him coming in. Probably 
nothing serious.” 

“What is it — radiation burns, or straight acci- 
dent?” 

“Oh — radiation mostly — maybe accident, too. 
Someone got a little careless — you know how it is. 
Nothing to worry about, though. You’ve been 



NERVES 



57 



through it before when they opened a port too 
soon.” 

Doc knew enough about that — if that’s what it 
was. "Sure, we can handle that, Palmer. But I 
thought No. 1 was closing down at five thirty to- 
night. Anyhow, how come they haven’t installed 
the safety ports on it? You told me they had, six 
months ago.” 

"I didn’t say it was No. 1, or that it was a 
manual port. You know, new equipment for new 
products.” Palmer looked up at someone else, 
and his upper arms made a slight movement before 
he looked down at the vision cell again. “I can’t 
go into it now. Dr. Ferrel; accident’s throwing us 
off schedule, you see — details piling up on me. 
We can talk it over later, and you probably have 
to make arrangements now. Call me if you want 
anything.” 

The screen darkened and the phone clicked off 
abruptly, just as a muffled word started. The voice 
hadn’t been Palmer’s. Ferrel pulled his stomach in, 
wiped the sweat off his hands again, and went out 
into the surgery with careful casualness. Damn 
Palmer, why couldn't the fool give enough informa- 
tion to make decent preparations possible? He 
was sure 3 and 4 alone were operating, and they 
were supposed to be foolproof. Just what had 
happened? 

Jenkins jerked up from a bench as he came out, 
face muscles tense and eyes filled with a nameless 
fear. Where he had been sitting, a copy of the 
Weekly Ray was lying open at a chart of symbols 
which meant nothing to Ferrel, except for the 
penciled line under one of the reactions. The boy 
picked it up and stuck it back on a table. 

“Routine accident,” Ferrel reported as naturally 
as he could, cursing himself for having to force 
his voice. Thank the Lord, the boy’s hands hadn’t 
trembled visibly when he was moving the paper; 
he’d still be useful if surgery were necessary. 
Palmer had said nothing of that, of course — he’d 
said nothing about entirely too much. “They’re 
bringing a few men over for radiation burns, ac- 
cording to Palmer. Everything ready?” 

Jenkins nodded tightly. “Quite ready, sir, as 
much as we can be for — routine accidents at 3 
and 4! . . . Isotope R. . . . Sorry, Dr. Ferrel, I didn’t 
mean that. Should we call in Dr. Blake and the 
other nurses and attendants?” 

“Eh? Oh, probably we can’t reach Blake, and 
Palmer doesn’t think we need him. You might 
have Nurse Dodd locate Meyers — the others are 
out on dates by now if I know them, and the two 
nurses should be enough, with Jones; they’re bet- 
ter than a flock of the others* anyway.” Isotope R? 
Ferrel remembered the name, but nothing else. 
Something an engineer had said once — but he 
couldn’t recall in what connection — or had Hokusai 
mentioned it? He watched Jenkins leave and 



turned back on an impulse to his office where he 
could phone in reasonable privacy. 

“Get me Matsuura Hokusai.” He stood drum- 
ming on the table impatiently until the screen 
finally lighted and the little Japanese looked out 
of it. “Hoke, do you know what they were turn- 
ing out over at 3 and 4?” 

The scientist nodded slowly, his wrinkled face 
as expressionless as his unaccented English. “Yess, 
they are make 1-713 for the weevil. Why you 
assk?” 

“Nothing ; just curious. I heard rumors about an 
Isotope R and wondered if there was any connec- 
tion. Seems they had a little accident over there, 
and I want to be ready for whatever comes of it.” 
For a fraction of a second, the heavy lids on 
Hokusai’s eyes seemed to lift, but his voice re- 
mained neutral, only slightly faster. “No connec- 
tion, Dr. Ferrel, they are not make Issotope R, 
very much assure you. Besst you forget Issotope R. 
Very ssorry. Dr. Ferrel, I musst now ssee acci- 
dent. Thank you for call. Good-by.” The screen 
was blank again, along with Ferrel’s mind. 

Jenkins was standing in the door, but had 
either heard nothing or seemed not to know about 
it. “Nurse Meyers is coming back,” he said. “Shall 
I get ready for curare injections?” 

“Uh — might be a good idea.” Ferrel had no in- 
tention of being surprised again, no matter what 
the implication of the words. Curare, one of the 
greatest poisons, known to South American primi- 
tives for centuries and only recently synthesized 
by modern chemistry, was the final resort for use in 
cases of radiation injury that was utterly beyond 
control. While the Infirmary stocked it for such 
emergencies, in the long years of Doc’s practice it 
had been used only twice; neither experience had 
been pleasant. Jenkins was either thoroughly 
frightened or overly zealous — unless he knew 
something he had no business knowing. 

“Seems to take them long enough to get the men 
here — can’t be too serious, Jenkins, or they’d move 
faster.” 

"Maybe.” Jenkins went on with his prepara- 
tions, dissolving dried plasma in distilled, 
deaerated water, without looking up. “There’s the 
litter siren now. You’d better get washed up while 
I take care of the patients.” 

Doc listened to the sound that came in as a 
faint drone from outside, and grinned slightly. 
“Must be Beel driving; he’s the only man fool 
enough to run the siren when the runways are 
empty. Anyhow, if you’ll listen, it’s the out trip 
he’s making. Be at least five minutes before he 
gets back.” But he turned into the washroom, 
kicked on the hot water and began scrubbing 
vigorously with the strong soap. 

Damn Jenkins! Here he was preparing for 
surgery before he had any reason to suspect the 
need, and the boy was running things to suit him- 



58 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



self, pretty much, as if armed with superior knowl- 
edge. Well, maybe he was. Either that, or he was 
simply half crazy with old wives’ fears of any- 
thing relating to atomic reactions, and that didn’t 
seem to fit the case. He rinsed off as Jenkins 
came in, kicked on the hot-air blast, and let his 
arms dry, then bumped against a rod that brought 
out rubber gloves on little holders. “Jenkins, 
what’s all this Isotope R business, anyway? I’ve 
heard about it somewhere — probably from Hoku- 
sai. But I can’t remember anything definite.” 

"Naturally — there isn’t anything definite. That’s 
the trouble.” The young doctor tackled the area 
under his fingernails before looking up; then he 
saw Ferrel was slipping into his surgeon’s whites 
that had come out on a hanger, and waited until 
the other was finished. “R's one of the big maybe 
problems of atomics. Purely theoretical, and 
none’s been made yet — it’s either impossible or 
can’t be done in small control batches, safe for 
testing. That's the trouble, as I said; nobody 
knows anything about it, except that — if it can 
exist — it’ll break down in a fairly short time into 
Mahler’s Isotope. You’ve heard of that?” 

Doc had — twice. The first had been when Mahler 
and half his laboratory had disappeared with ac- 
companying noise; he’d been making a compara- 
tively small amount of the new product designed 
to act as a starter for other reactions. Later, 
Maicewicz had tackled it on a smaller scale, and 
that time only two rooms and three men had gone 
up in dust particles. Five or six years later, atomic 
theory had been extended to the point where any 
student could find why the apparently safe product 
decided to become pure helium and energy in ap- 
proximately one-billionth of a second. 

“How long a time?” 

“Half a dozen theories, and no real idea." They’d 
come out of the washrooms, finished except for 
their masks. Jenkins ran his elbow into a switch 
that turned on the ultraviolets that were supposed 
to sterilize the entire surgery, then looked around 
questioningly. “What about the supersonics?” 

Ferrel kicked them on, shuddering as the bone- 
shaking harmonic hum indicated their activity. 
He couldn’t complain about the equipment, at least. 
Ever since the last accident, when the State Con- 
gress developed ideas, there'd been enough gadgets 
lying around to stock up several small hospitals. 
The supersonics were intended to penetrate 
through all solids in the room, sterilizing where 
the UV light couldn’t reach. A whistling note in 
the harmonics reminded him of something that had 
been tickling around in the back of his mind for 
minutes. 

“There was no emergency whistle, Jenkins. 
Hardly seems to me they’d neglect that if it were 
so important." 

Jenkins grunted skeptically and eloquently. “I 
read in the papers a few days ago where Congress 



was thinking of moving all atomic plants — meaning 
National, of course — out into the Mojave Desert. 
Palmer wouldn’t like that. . . . There’s the siren 
again.” 

Jones, the male attendant, had heard it, and was 
already running out the fresh stretcher for the 
litter into the back receiving room. Half a minute 
later, Beel came trundling in the detachable part 
of the litter. “Two," he announced. “More com- 
ing up as soon as they can get to ’em, Doc." 

There was blood spilled over the canvas, and a 
closer inspection indicated its source in a severed 
jugular vein, now held in place with a small safety 
pin that had fastened the two sides of the cut with 
a series of little pricks around which the blood 
had clotted enough to stop further loss. 

Doc kicked off the supersonics with relief and 
indicated the man’s throat. “Why wasn’t I called 
out instead of having him brought here?” 

"Hell, Doc, Palmer said bring ’em in and I 
brought ’em — I dunno. Guess some guy pinned up 
this fellow so they figured he could wait. Any- 
thing wrong?” 

Ferrel gTimaced. "With a split jugular, nothing 
that stops the bleeding’s wrong, orthodox or not. 
How many more, and what’s wrong out there?" 

“Lord knows, Doc. I only drive ’em, I don’t ask 
questions. So long!” He pushed the new stretcher 
up on the carriage, went wheeling it out to the 
small two-wheeled tractor that completed the litter. 
Ferrel dropped his curiosity back to its proper 
place and turned to the jugular case, while Dodd 
adjusted her mask. Jones had their clothes off, 
swabbed them down hastily, and wheeled them out 
on operating tables into the center of the surgery. 

“Plasma!” A quick examination had shown Doc 
nothing else wrong with the jugular case, and he 
made the injection quickly. Apparently the man 
was only unconscious from shock induced by loss 
of blood, and the breathing and heart action re- 
sumed a more normal course as the liquid filled out 
the depleted blood vessels. He treated the wound 
with a sulphonamide derivative in routine proce- 
dure, cleaned and sterilized the edges gently, ap- 
plied clamps carefully, removed the pin, and began 
stitching with the complicated little motor needle 
— one of the few gadgets for which he had any 
real appreciation. A few more drops of blood had 
spilled, but not seriously, and the wound was now 
permanently sealed. “Save the pin, Dodd. Goes 
in the collection. That’s all for this. How’s the 
other, Jenkins?” 

Jenkins pointed to the back of the man’s neck, 
indicating a tiny bluish object sticking out. “Frag- 
ment of steel, clear into the medulla oblongata. 
No blood loss, but he’s been dead since it touched 
him. Want me to remove it?” 

“No need— mortician can do it if they want. . . . 



NERVES 



59 




If these are a sample, I’d guess it as a plain in- 
dustrial accident, instead of anything connected 
with radiation.” 

“You’ll get that, too, Doc.” It was the jugular 
case, apparently conscious and normal except for 
pallor. “We weren’t in the converter house. Hey, 
I’m all right! . . . I’ll be — ” 

Ferrel smiled at the surprise on the fellow’s 
face. "Thought you were dead, eh? Sure, you’re 
all right, if you’ll take it easy. A torn jugular 
either kills you or else it’s nothing to worry about. 
Just pipe down and let the nurse put you to sleep, 
and you’ll never know you got it.” 

“Lord! Stuff came flying out of the air-intake 
like bullets out of a machine gun. Just a scratch, 
I thought; then Jake was bawling like a baby and 
yelling for a pin. Blood all over the place — then 
here I am, good as new.” 

"Uh-huh.” Dodd was already wheeling him off 
to a ward room, her grim face wrinkled into a half- 
quizzical expression over the mask. "Doctor said 
to pipe down, didn’t he? Well !” 

As soon as Dodd vanished, Jenkins sat down, 
running his hand over his cap; there were little 
beads of sweat showing where the goggles and 
mask didn’t entirely cover his face. " 'Stuff came 
flying out of the air-intake like bullets out of a 
machine gun,’ ” he repeated softly. "Dr. Ferrel, 



these two cases were outside the converter — just 
by-product accidents. Inside — ” 

“Yeah.” Ferrel was picturing things himself, 
and it wasn’t pleasant. Outside, matter tossed 
through the air ducts; inside — He left it hanging, 
as Jenkins had. “I’m going to call Blake. We’ll 
probably need him.” 

II. 

"Give me Dr. Blake’s residence — Maple 2337,” 
Ferrel said quickly into the phone. The operator 
looked blank for a second, starting and then check- 
ing a purely automatic gesture toward the plugs. 
“Maple 2337, I said.” 

“I’m sorry, Dr. Ferrel, I can’t give you an outside 
line. All trunk lines are out of order.” There 
was a constant buzz from the board, but nothing 
showed in the panel to indicate whether from 
white inside lights or the red trunk indicators. 

“But — this is an emergency, operator. I’ve got 
to get in touch with Dr. Blake!” 

“Sorry, Dr. Ferrel. All trunk lines are out of 
order.” She started to reach for the plug, but 
Ferrel stopped her. 

“Give me Palmer, then — and no nonsense! If 
his line’s busy, cut me in, and I’ll take the re- 
sponsibility.” 

"Very good.” She snapped at her switches. 





60 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“I’m sorry, emergency call from Dr. Ferrel. Hold 
the line and I’ll reconnect you.” Then Palmer’s 
face was on the panel, and this time the man was 
making no attempt to conceal his expression of 
worry. 

“What is it, Ferrel?" 

“I want Blake here — I’m going to need him. 
The operator says — ” 

“Yeah.” Palmer nodded tightly, cutting in. 
“I’ve been trying to get him myself, but his house 
doesn’t answer. Any idea of where to reach him?” 

“You might try the Bluebird or any of the other 
night clubs around there.” Damn, why did this 
have to be Blake’s celebration night? No telling 
where he could be found by this time. 

Palmer was speaking again. “I’ve already had 
all the night clubs and restaurants called, and he 
doesn’t answer. We’re paging the movie houses 
and theaters now — just a second. . . . Nope, he 
isn’t there, Ferrel. Last reports, no response." 

“How about sending out a general call over the 
radio?” 

“I’d ... I’d like to, Ferrel, but it can’t be done." 
The manager had hesitated for a fraction of a 
second, but his reply was positive. “Oh, by the 
way, we’ll notify your wife you won’t be home. 
Operator! You there? Good, reconnect the Gov- 
ernor!” 

There was no sense in arguing into a blank 
screen, Doc realized. If Palmer wouldn’t put 
through a radio call, he wouldn’t, though it had 
been done once before. “All trunk lines are out 
of order. . . . We'll notify your wife. . . . Recon- 
nect the Governor!" They weren’t even being 
careful to cover up. He must have repeated the 
words aloud as he backed out of the office, still 
staring at the screen, for Jenkins’ face twitched 
into a maladjusted grin. 

“So we’re cut off. I knew it already; Meyers 
just got in with more details.” He nodded toward 
the nurse, just coming out of the dressing room 
and trying to smooth out her uniform. Her almost 
pretty face was more confused than worried. 

“I was just leaving the plant, Dr. Ferrel, when 
my name came up on the outside speaker, but I 
had trouble getting here. We’re locked in! I saw 
them at the gate — guards with sticks. They were 
turning back everyone that tried to leave, and 
wouldn’t tell why, even. Just general orders that 
no one was to leave until Mr. Palmer gave his 
permission. And they weren't going to let me 
back in at first. Do you suppose ... do you know 
what it’s all about? I heard little things that didn't 
mean anything, really, but — ” 

“I know just about as much as you do, Meyers, 
though Palmer said something about carelessness 
with one of the ports on No. 3 or 4,” Ferrel an- 
swered her. “Probably just precautionary meas- 
ures. Anyway, I wouldn’t worry about it yet.” 

“Yes, Dr. Ferrel." She nodded and turned back 



to the front office, but there was no assurance in 
her look. Doc realized that neither Jenkins nor 
himself were pictures of confidence at the moment. 

“Jenkins,” he said, when she was gone, “if you 
know anything I don’t, for the love of Mike, out 
with it! I’ve never seen anything like this around 
here.” 

Jenkins shook himself, and for the first time 
since he’d been there, used Ferrel’s nickname. 
“Doc, I don’t — that’s why I’m in a blue funk. I 
know just enough to be less sure than you can be, 
and I’m scared as hell!” 

“Let’s see your hands.” The subject was almost 
a monomania with Ferrel, and he knew it, but he 
also knew it wasn’t unjustified. Jenkins’ hands 
came out promptly, and there was no tremble to 
them. The boy threw up his arm so the sleeve slid 
beyond the elbow, and Ferrel nodded; there was 
no sweat trickling down from the armpits to reveal 
a worse case of nerves than showed on the surface. 
“Good enough, son ; I don’t care how scared you are 
—I’m getting that way myself— but with Blake out 
of the picture, and the other nurses and attendants 
sure to be out of reach, I’ll need everything you've 
got.” 

“Doc?” 

"Well?” 

“If you’ll take my word for it, I can get another 
nurse here — and a good one, too. They don't come 
any better, or any steadier, and she’s not working 
now. I didn't expect her — well, anyhow, she’d 
skin me if I didn’t call when we need one. Want 
her?” 

“No trunk lines for outside calls,” Doc reminded 
him. It was the first time he’d seen any real en- 
thusiasm on the boy’s face, and however good or 
bad the nurse was, she’d obviously be of value in 
bucking up Jenkins’ spirits. “Go to it, though; 
right now we can probably use any nurse. Sweet- 
heart?” 

“Wife.” Jenkins went toward the dressing room. 
“And I don’t need the phone; we used to carry 
ultra-short-wave personal radios to keep in touch, 
and I’ve still got mine here. And if you’re worried 
about her qualifications, she handed instruments to 
Bayard at Mayo’s for five years — that’s how I man- 
aged to get through medical school!” 

The siren was approaching again when Jenkins 
came back, the little tense lines about his lips still 
there, but his whole bearing somehow steadier. He 
nodded. “I called Palmer, too, and he O. K.’d her 
coming inside on the phone without wondering 
how I’d contacted her. The switchboard girl ha,s 
standing orders to route all calls from us through 
before anything else, it seems.” 

Doc nodded, his ear cocked toward the drone of 
the siren that drew up and finally ended on a sour 
wheeze. There was a feeling of relief from ten- 
sion about him as he saw Jones appear and go 



NERVES 



toward the rear entrance; work, even under the 
pressure of an emergency, was always easier than 
sitting around waiting for it. He saw two stretch- 
ers come in, both bearing double loads, and noted 
that Beel was babbling at the attendant, the driver’s 
usually phlegmatic manner completely gone. 

“I’m quitting; I’m through tomorrow! No more 
watching ’em drag out stiffs for me — not that way. 
Dunno why I gotta go back, anyhow; it won’t do 
’em any good to get in further, even if they can. 
From now on, I’m driving a truck, so help me I 
am!” 

Ferrel let him rave on, only vaguely aware that 
the man was close to hysteria. He had no time to 
give to Beel now as he saw the raw red flesh 
through the visor of one or the armor suits. “Cut 
off what clothes you can, Jones,” he directed. "At 
least get the shield suits off them. Tannic acid 
ready, nurse?” 

“Ready.” Meyers answered together with Jen- 
kins, who was busily helping Jones strip off the 
heavily armored suits and helmets. 

Ferrel kicked on the supersonics again, letting 
them sterilize the metal suits — there was going to 
be no chance to be finicky about asepsis ; the super- 
sonics and ultra-violet tubes were supposed to take 
care of that, and they’d have to do It, to a large 
extent, little as he liked it. Jenkins finished his 
part, dived back for fresh gloves, with a mere 
cursory dipping of his hands into antiseptic and 
rinse. Dodd followed him, while Jones wheeled 
three of the cases into the middle of the surgery, 
ready for work ; the other had died on the way in. 

It was going to be messy work, obviously. Where 
metal from the suits had touched, or come near 
touching, the flesh was burned — crisped, rather. 
And that was merely a minor part of it, as was the 
more than ample evidence of major radiation burns, 
which had probably not stopped at the surface, but 
penetrated through the flesh and bones into the 
vital interior organs. Much worse, the writhing 
and spasmodic muscular contractions indicated 
radioactive matter that had been forced into the 
flesh and was acting directly on the nerves control- 
ling the motor impulses. Jenkins looked hastily at 
the twisting body of his case, and his face blanched 
to a yellowish white ; it was the first real example 
of the full possibilities of an atomic accident he’d 
seen. 

“Curare,” he said finally, the word forced out, 
but level. Meyers handed him the hypodermic and 
he inserted it, his hand still steady — more than nor- 
mally steady, in fact, with that absolute lack of 
movement that can come to a living organism only 
under the stress of emergency. Ferrel dropped his 
eyes back to his own case, both relieved and wor- 
ried. 

From the spread of the muscular convulsions, 
there could be only one explanation — somehow, 
radioactives had not only worked their way 



61 

through the air grills, but had been forced through 
the almost air-tight joints and sputtered directly 
into the flesh of the men. Now they were sending 
out radiations into every nerve, throwing aside the 
normal orders from the brain and spinal column, 
setting up anarchic orders of their own that left 
the muscles to writhe and jerk, one against the 
other, without order or reason, or any of the normal 
restraints the body places upon itself. The closest 
parallel was that of a man undergoing metrozol 
shock for schizophrenia, or a severe case of 
strychnine poisoning. He injected curare care- 
fully, metering out the dosage according to the 
best estimate he could make, but Jenkins had been 
acting under a pressure that finished the second 
injection as Doc looked up from his first. Still, 
in spite of the rapid spread of the drug, some of 
the twitching went on. 

"Curare,” Jenkins repeated, and Doc tensed men- 
tally; he’d still been debating whether to risk the 
extra dosage. But he made no counter-order, feel- 
ing slightly relieved this time at having the matter 
taken out of his hands; Jenkins went back to work, 
pushing up the injections to the absolute limit of 
safety, and slightly beyond. One of the cases had 
started a weird minor moan that hacked on and off 
as his lungs and vocal cords went in and out of 
synchronization, but it quieted under the drug, and 
in a matter of minutes the three lay still, breathing 
with the shallow flaccidity common to curare treat- 
ment. They were still moving slightly, but where 
before they were perfectly capable of breaking 
their own bones in uncontrolled efforts, now 
there was only motion similar to a man with a chill. 

"God bless the man who synthesized curare,” 
Jenkins muttered as he began cleaning away 
damaged flesh, Meyers assisting. 

Doc could repeat that; with the older, natural 
product, true standardization and exact dosage had 
been next to impossible. Too much, and its action 
on the body was fatal ; the patient died from “ex- 
haustion” of his chest muscles in a matter of min- 
utes. Too little was practically useless. Now that 
the danger of self-injury and fatal exhaustion from 
wild exertion was over, he could attend to such 
relatively unimportant things as the agony still 
going on — curare had no particular effect on the 
sensory nerves. He injected neo-heroin and began 
cleaning the burned areas and treating them with 
the standard tannic-acid routine, first with a sul- 
phonamide to eliminate possible infection, glanc- 
ing up occasionally at Jenkins. 

He had no need to worry, though; the boy’s 
nerves were frozen into an unnatural calm that 
still pressed through with a speed Ferrel made no 
attempt to equal, knowing his work would suffer 
for it. At a gesture, Dodd handed him the little 
radiation detector, and he began hunting over the 
skin, inch by inch, for the almost microscopic bits 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



of matter; there was no hope of finding all now, 
but the worst deposits could be found and re- 
moved ; later, with more time, a final probing could 
be made. 

“Jenkins," he asked, “how about I-713’s chemical 
action? Is it basically poisonous to the system?” 

“No. Perfectly safe except for radiation. Eight 
in the outer electron ring, chemically inert.” 

That, at least, was a relief. Radiations were bad 
enough in and of themselves, but when coupled 
with metallic poisoning, like the old radium or 
mercury poisoning, it was even worse. The small 
colloidally fine particles of 1-713 in the flesh would 
set up their own danger signal, and could be 
scraped away in the worst cases ; otherwise, they'd 
probably have to stay until the isotope exhausted 
itself. Mercifully, its half life was short, which 
would decrease the long hospitalization and suffer- 
ing of the men. 

Jenkins joined Ferrel on the last patient, replac- 
ing Dodd at handing instruments. Doc would have 
preferred the nurse, who was used to his little 
signals, but he said nothing, and was surprised to 
note the efficiency of the boy’s co-operation. "How 
about the breakdown products?" he asked. 

“1-713? Harmless enough, mostly, and what isn’t 
harmless isn’t concentrated enough to worry about. 
That is, if it’s still 1-713. Otherwise — ” 

Otherwise, Doc finished mentally, the boy meant 
there'd be no danger from poisoning, at least. 
Isotrope R, with an uncertain degeneration period, 
turned into Mahler’s Isotope, with a complete 
breakdown in a billionth of a second. He had a 
fleeting vision of men, filled with a fine dispersion 
of that, suddenly erupting over their body with 
a violence that could never be described; Jenkins 
must have been thinking the same thing. For 
a few seconds, they stood there, looking at each 
other silently, but neither chose to speak of it. 
Ferrel reached for the probe, Jenkins shrugged, 
and they went on with their work and their 
thoughts. 

It was a picture impossible to imagine, which 
they might or might not see; if such an atomic 
blow-up occurred, what would happen to the 
laboratory was problematical. No one knew the 
exact amount Maicewicz had worked on, except 
that it was the smallest amount he could make, so 
there could be no good estimate of the damage. 
The bodies on the operating tables, the little scraps 
of removed flesh containing the minute globules 
of radioactive, even the instruments that had come 
in contact with them, were bombs waiting to ex- 
plode. Ferrel’s own fingers took on some of the 
steadiness that was frozen in Jenkins as he went 
about his work, forcing his mind onto the difficult 
labor at hand. 

It might have been minutes or hours later when 
the last dressing was in place and the three broken 



bones of the worst case were set. Meyers and 
Dodd, along with Jones, were taking care of the 
men, putting them into the little wards, and the 
two physicians were alone, carefully avoiding each 
other’s eyes, waiting without knowing exactly 
what they expected. 

Outside, a droning chug came to their ears, and 
the thump of something heavy moving over the 
runways. By common impulse they slipped to the 
side door and looked out, to see the rear end of 
one of the electric tanks moving away from them. 
Night had fallen some time before, but the gleam- 
ing lights from the big towers around the fence 
made the plant stand out in glaring detail. Except 
for the tank moving away, though, other buildings 
cut off their view. 

Then, from the direction of the main gate, a shrill 
whistle cut the air, and there was a sound of 
men’s voices, though the words were indistin- 
guishable. Sharp, crisp syllables followed, and 
Jenkins nodded slowly to himself. "Ten’ll get 
you a hundred," he began, “that — Uh, no use 
betting. It is." 

Around the corner a squad of men in State 
militia uniform marched briskly, bayoneted rifles 
on their arms. With efficient precision, they 
spread out under a sergeant’s direction, each tak- 
ing a post before the door of one of the buildings, 
one approaching the place where Ferrel and Jen- 
kins stood. 

“So that’s what Palmer was talking to the Gov- 
ernor about,” Ferrel muttered. “No use asking 
them questions, I suppose; they know less than we 
do. Come on inside where we can sit down and 
rest. Wonder what good the militia can do here— 
unless Palmer’s afraid someone inside's going to 
crack and cause trouble.” 

Jenkins followed him back to the office and 
accepted a cigarette automatically as he flopped 
back into a chair. Doc was discovering just how 
good it felt to give his muscles and nerves a chance 
to relax, and realizing that they must have been 
far longer in the surgery than he had thought. 
“Care for a drink?” 

“Uh — is it safe, Doc? We’re apt to be back in 
there any minute.” 

Ferrel pulled a grin onto his face and nodded. 
“It won't hurt you — we’re just enough on edge and 
tired for it to be burned up inside for fuel instead 
of reaching our nerves. Here.” It was a generous 
slug of rye he poured for each, enough to send an 
almost immediate warmth through them, and to 
relax their overtensed nerves. “Wonder why Beel 
hasn’t been back long ago?” 

“That tank we saw probably explains it; it got 
too tough for the men to work in just their suits, 
and they’ve had to start excavating through the 
converters with the tanks. Electric, wasn’t it, bat- 
tery powered? ... So there’s enough radiation 
loose out there to interfere with atomic-powered 



NERVES 



63 



machines, then. That means whatever they’re do- 
ing is tough and slow work. Anyhow, it’s more 
important that they damp the action than get 
the men out, if they only realize it — Sue!" 

Ferrel looked up quickly to see the girl standing 
there, already dressed for surgery, and he was not 
too old for a little glow of appreciation to creep 
over him. No wonder Jenkins’ face lighted up. 
She was small, but her figure was shaped like that 
of a taller girl, not in the cute or pert lines usually 
associated with shorter women, and the serious 
competence of her expression hid none of the 
loveliness of her face. Obviously she was several 
years older than Jenkins, but as he stood up to 
greet her, her face softened and seemed somehow 
youthful beside the boy’s as she looked up. 

"You’re Dr. Ferrel?” she asked, turning to the 
older man. "I was a little late — there was some 
trouble at first about letting me in — so I went 
directly to prepare before bothering you. And 
just so you won’t be afraid to use me, my creden- 
tials are all here.” 

She put the little bundle on the table, and 
Ferrel ran through them briefly; it was better than 
he'd expected. Technically she wasn’t a nurse at 
all, but a doctor of medicine, a so-called nursing 
doctor; there’d been the need for assistants mid- 
way between doctor and nurse for years, having the 
general training and abilities of both, but only in 
the last decade had the actual course been created, 
and the graduates were still limited to a few. He 
nodded and handed them back. 

“We can use you. Dr. — ” 

“Brown — professional name, Dr. Ferrel. And 
I’m used to being called just Nurse Brown.” 

Jenkins cut in on the formalities. "Sue, is 
there any news outside about what’s going on 
here?” 

"Rumors, but they’re wild, and I didn’t have a 
chance to hear many. All I know is that they’re 
talking about evacuating the city and everything 
within fifty miles of here, but it isn’t official. And 
some people were saying the Governor was send- 
ing in troops to declare martial law over the whole 
section, but I didn’t see any except here.” 

Jenkins took her off, then, to show her the In- 
firmary and introduce her to Jones and the two 
other nurses, leaving Ferrel to wait for the sound 
of the siren again, and to try putting two and two 
together to get sixteen. He attempted to make 
sense out of the article in the Weekly Ray, but 
gave it up finally; atomic theory had advanced too 
far since the sketchy studies he’d made, and the 
symbols were largely without meaning to him. 
He’d have to rely on Jenkins, it seemed. In the 
meantime, what was holding up the litter? He 
should have heard the warning siren long before. 

It wasn’t the litter that came in next, though, 
but a group of five men, two carrying a third, and 



a fourth supporting the fifth. Jenkins took the 
carried man over, Brown helping him; it was 
similar to the former cases, but without the actual 
burns from contact with hot metal. Ferrel turned 
to the men. 

“Where’s Beel and the litter?” He was inspect- 
ing the supported man’s leg as he asked, and began 
work on it without moving the fellow to a table. 
Apparently a lump of radioactive matter the size of 
a small pea had been driven half an inch into the 
flesh below the thigh, and the broken bone was 
the result of the violent contractions of the man’s 
own muscles under the stimulus of the radiation. 
It wasn’t pretty. Now, however, the strength of 
the action had apparently burned out the nerves 
around, so the leg was comparatively limp and 
without feeling ; the man lay watching, relaxed on 
the bench in a half-comatose condition, his eyes 
popping out and his lips twisted into a sick grim- 
ace, but he did not flinch as the wound was scraped 
out. Ferrel was working around a small leaden 
shield, his arms covered with heavily leaded gloves, 
and he dropped the scraps of flesh and isotope into 
a box of the same metal. 

"Beel — he’s out of this world, Doc,” one of the 
others answered when he could tear his eyes off 
the probing. “He got himself blotto, somehow, 
and wrecked the litter before he got back. Couldn’t 
take it, watching us grapple ’em out — and we 
hadda go in after ’em without a drop of hootch!" 

Ferrel glanced at him quickly, noticing Jenkins’ 
head jerk around as he did so. “You were getting 
them out? You mean you didn’t come from in 
there?” 

“Heck, no, Doc. Do we look that bad? Them 
two got it when the stuff decided to spit on ’em 
clean through their armor. Me, I got me some 
nice burns, but I ain’t complaining — I got a look 
at a couple of stiffs, so I’m kicking about nothing!” 

Ferrel hadn’t noticed the three who had traveled 
under their own power, but he looked now, care- 
fully. They were burned, and badly, by radiations, 
but the burns were still new enough not to give 
them too much trouble, and probably what they’d 
just been through had temporarily deadened their 
awareness of pain, just as a soldier on the battle- 
field may be wounded and not realize it until the 
action stops. Anyway, atomjacks were not noted 
for sissiness. 

“There’s almost a quart in the office there on the 
table,” he told them. “One good drink apiece — 
no more. Then go up front and I’ll send Nurse 
Brown in to fix up your burns as well as can be 
for now.” Brown could apply the unguents de- 
veloped to heal radiation burns as well as he could, 
and some division of work that would relieve Jen- 
kins and himself seemed necessary. “Any chance 
of finding any more living men in the converter 
housings?” 

"Maybe. Somebody said the thing let out a 



64 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




groan half a minute before it popped, so most of 
’em had a chance to duck into the two safety cham- 
bers. Figure on going back there and pushing 
tanks ourselves unless you say no; about half an 
hour’s work left before we can crack the chambers, 
I guess, then we’ll know.” 

“Good. And there’s no sense in sending in every 
man with a burn, or we’ll be flooded here; they can 
wait, and it looks as if we’ll have plenty of 
serious stuff to care for. Dr. Brown, I guess you’re 
elected to go out with the men — have one of them 
drive the spare litter Jones will show you. Salve 
down all the burn cases, put the worst ones off 
duty, and just send in the ones with the jerks. 
You’ll find my emergency kit in the office, there. 
Someone has to be out there to give first aid and 
sort them out — we haven’t room for the whole 
plant in here.” 

“Right, Dr. Ferrel.” She let Meyers replace her 
in assisting Jenkins, and was gone briefly to come 
out with his bag. “Come on, you men. I'll hop 
the litter and dress down your burns on the way. 
You're appointed driver, mister. Somebody should 
have reported that Beel person before, so the litter 
would be out there now.” 

The spokesman for the others upended the glass 
he’d filled, swallowed, gulped, and grinned down at 
her. “O. K., doctor, only out there you ain’t got 
time to think — you gotta do. Thanks for the shot, 



Doc, and I’ll tell Hoke you’re appointing her out 
there.” 

They filed out behind Brown as Jones went out 
to get the second litter, and Doc went ahead with 
the quick-setting plastic cast for the broken leg. 
Too bad there weren't more of those nursing 
doctors; he’d have to see Palmer about it after 
this was over — if Palmer and he were still around. 
Wonder how the men in the safety chambers, 
about which he'd completely forgotten, would 
make out? There were two in each converter 
housing, designed as an escape for the men in 
case of accident, and supposed to be proof against 
almost anything. If the men had reached them, 
maybe they were all right ; he wouldn’t have taken 
a bet on it, though. With a slight shrug, he fin- 
ished his work and went over to help Jenkins. 

The boy nodded down at the body on the table, 
already showing extensive scraping and probing. 
“Quite a bit of spitting clean through the armor,” 
he commented. “Those words were just a little 
too graphic for me. 1-713 couldn’t do that.” 

“Hm-m-m.” Doc was in no mood to quibble on 
the subject. He caught himself looking at the little 
box in which the stuff was put after they worked 
what they could out of the flesh, and jerked his 
eyes away quickly. Whenever the lid was being 
dropped, a glow could be seen inside. Jenkins al- 




NERVES 



65 



ways managed to keep his eyes on something else. 

They were almost finished when the switchboard 
girl announced a call, and they waited to make 
the few last touches before answering, then filed 
into the office together. Brown’s face was on the 
screen, smudged and with a spot of rouge standing 
out on each cheek. Another smudge appeared as 
she brushed the auburn hair out of her eyes with 
the back of her wrist. 

“They’ve cracked the converter safety cham- 
bers, Dr. Ferrel. The north one held up perfectly, 
except for the heat and a little burn, but some- 
thing happened in the other; oxygen valve stuck, 
and all are unconscious, but alive. Magma must 
have sprayed through the door, because sixteen or 
seventeen have the jerks, and about a dozen are 
dead. Some others need more care than I can give 
— I’m having Hokusai delegate men to carry those 
the stretchers won’t hold, and they’re all piling up 
on you in a bunch right now!” 

Ferrel grunted and nodded. “Could have been 
worse, I guess. Don’t kill yourself out there, 
Brown.” 

“Same to you." She blew Jenkins a kiss and 
snapped off, just as the whine of the litter siren 
reached their ears. 

In the surgery again, they could see a truck 
showing behind it, and men lifting out bodies in 
apparently endless succession. 

"Get their armor off, somehow, Jones — grab any- 
one else to help you that you can. Curare, Dodd, 
and keep handing it to me. We’ll worry about 
everything else after Jenkins and I quiet them.” 
This was obviously going to be a mass-production 
sort of business, not for efficiency, but through 
sheer necessity. And again, Jenkins with his queer 
taut jteadiness was doing two for one that Doc 
could do, his face pale and his eyes almost glazed, 
blit his hands moving endlessly and nervelessly on 
with his work. 

Sometime during the night Jenkins looked up 
at Meyers, and motioned her back. "Go get some 
sleep, nurse; Miss Dodd can take care of both 
Dr. Ferrel and myself when we work close to- 
gether. Your nerves are shot, and you need the 
rest. Dodd, you can call her back in two hours 
and rest yourself.” 

“What about you, doctor?” 

“Me — •” He grinned out of the corner of his 
mouth, crookedly. “I’ve got an imagination that 
won’t sleep, and I’m needed here.” The sentence 
ended on a rising inflection that was false to Fer- 
rel’s ear, and the older doctor looked at the boy 
thoughtfully. 

Jenkins caught his look. "It’s O. K., Doc; I’ll 
let you know when I’m going to crack. It was 
O. K. to send Meyers back, wasn’t it?” 

“You were closer to her than I was, so you 
should know better than I.” Technically, the 
nurses were all directly under his control, but 



they’d dropped such technicalities long before. 
Ferrel rubbed the small of his back briefly, then 
picked up his scalpel again. 

A faint gray light was showing in the east, and 
the wards had overflowed into the waiting room 
when the last case from the chambers was finished 
as best he could be. During the night, the con- 
verter had continued to spit occasionally, even 
through the tank armor twice, but now there was 
a temporary lull in the arrival of workers for 
treatment. Doc sent Jones after breakfast from the 
cafeteria, then headed into the office where Jen- 
kins was already slumped down in the old leather 
chair. 

The boy was exhausted almost to the limit from 
the combined strain of the work and his own 
suppressed jitters, but he looked up in mild sur- 
prise as he felt the prick of the needle. Ferrel 
finished it, and used it on himself before explain- 
ing. “Morphine, of course. What else can we do? 
Just enough to keep us going, but without it we’ll 
both be useless out there in a few more hours. 
Anyhow, there isn’t as much reason not to use it 
as there was when I was younger, before the 
counter-agent was discovered to kill most of its 
habit-forming tendency. Even five years ago, be- 
fore they had that, there were times when mor- 
phine was useful, Lord knows, though anyone who 
used it except as a last resort deserved all the hell 
he got. A real substitute for sleep would be bet- 
ter, though; wish they’d finish up the work they’re 
doing on that fatigue eliminator at Harvard. Here, 
eat that !” 

Jenkins grimaced at the breakfast Jones laid 
out in front of him, but he knew as well as Doc 
that the food was necessary, and he pulled the 
plate back to him. "What I’d give an eye tooth 
for, Doc, wouldn’t be a substitute — just half an 
hour of good old-fashioned sleep. Only, damn it, 
if I knew I had time, I couldn’t do it — not with 
R out there bubbling away.” 

The telephone annunciator clipped in before Doc 
could answer. “Telephone for Dr. Ferrel; 
emergency! Dr. Brown calling Dr. Ferrell” 
“Ferrel answering!” The phone girl’s face 
popped off the screen, and a tired-faced Sue Brown 
looked out at them. “What is it?” 

“It’s that little Japanese fellow — Hokusai — 
who’s been running things out he e, Dr. Ferrel. 
I’m bringing him in with an acute case of appen- 
dicitis. Prepare surgery !’’ 

Jenkins gagged over the coffee he was trying 
to swallow, and his choking voice was halfway 
between disgust and hysterical laughter. “Ap- 
pendicitis, Doc! My God, what comes next?” 

III. 

It might have been worse. Brown had coupled 
in the little freezing unit on the litter and lowered 



06 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



the temperature around the abdomen, both pre- 
paring Hokusai for surgery and slowing down 
the progress of the infection so that the appendix 
was still unbroken when he was wheeled into the 
surgery. His seamed Oriental face had a grayish 
cast under the olive, but he managed a faint grin. 

“Verry ssorry. Dr. Ferrel, to bother you. Verry 
ssorry. No ether, pleasse!” 

Ferrel grunted. “No need of it, Hoke; we’ll use 
hypothermy, since it’s already begun. Over here, 
Jones. . . . And you might as well go back and sit 
down, Jenkins.” 

Brown was washing, and popped out again, 
ready to assist with the operation. “He had to be 
tied down, practically. Dr. Ferrel. Insisted that 
he only needed a little mineral oil and some pepper- 
mint for his stomach-ache I Why are intelligent 
people always the most stupid?” 

It was a mystery to Ferrel, too, but seemingly 
the case. He tested the temperature quickly while 
the surgery hypothermy equipment began func- 
tioning, found it low enough, and began. Hoke 
flinched with his eyes as the scalpel touched him, 
then opened them in mild surprise at feeling no 
appreciable pain. The complete absence of nerve 
response with its accompanying freedom from 
post-operative shock was one of the great ad- 
vantages of low-temperature work in surgery. 
Ferrel laid back the flesh, severed the appendix 
quickly, and removed it through the tiny incision. 
Then, with one of the numerous attachments, he 
made use of the ingenious mechanical stitcher and 
stepped back. 

“All finished, Hoke, and you’re lucky you didn’t 
rupture — peritonitis isn’t funny, even though we 
can cut down on it with the sulphonamides. The 
ward’s full, so’s the waiting room, so you’ll have 
to stay on the table for a few hours until we can 
find a place for you; no pretty nurse, either — 
until the two other girls get here sometime this 
morning. I dunno what we’ll do about the pa- 
tients.’’ 

“But, Dr. Ferrel. I am hear that now ssurgery — 
I sshould be up, already. There iss work I am do." 

“You’ve been hearing that appendectomy pa- 
tients aren’t confined now, eh? Well, that’s partly 
true. Johns-Hopkins began it quite awhile ago. 
But for the next hour, while the temperature comes 
back to normal, you stay put. After that, if you 
want to move around a little, you can ; but no going 
out to the converter. A little exercise probably 
helps more than it harms, but any strain wouldn’t 
be good.” 

“But, the danger — ” 

“Be hanged, Hoke. You couldn't help now, long 
enough to do any good. Until the stuff in those 
stitches dissolves away completely in the body 
fluids, you’re to take it easy — and that’s two weeks, 
about.” 

The little man gave in, reluctantly. “Then I 



think I ssleep now. But besst you sshould call 
Mr. Palmer at once, pleasse! He musst know I am 
not there 1” 

Palmer took the news the hard way, with an 
unfair but natural tendency to blame Hokusai and 
Ferrel. “Damn it, Doc, I was hoping he’d get 
things straightened out somehow — I practically 
promised the Governor that Hoke could take care 
of it; he’s got one of the best brains in the busi- 
ness. Now this! Well, no help, I guess. He 
certainly can't do it unless he’s in condition to 
get right into things. Maybe Jorgenson, though, 
knows enough about it to handle it from a wheel 
chair, or something. How’s he coming along — in 
shape to be taken out where he can give directions 
to the foremen?" 

“Wait a minute.” Ferrel stopped him as quickly 
as he could. “Jorgenson isn’t here. We’ve got 
thirty-one men lying around, and he isn’t one of 
them; and if he’d been one of the seventeen dead, 
you’d know it. I didn't know Jorgenson was work- 
ing, even.” 

“He had to be — it was his process ! Look, Ferrel, 
I was distinctly told that he was taken to you — 
foreman dumped him on the litter himself and re- 
ported at once! Better check up, and quick — 
with Hoke only half able, I’ve got to have Jor- 
genson I” 

"He isn’t here — I know Jorgenson. The fore- 
man must have mistaken the big fellow from the 
south safety for him, but that man had black hair 
inside his helmet. What about the three hundred- 
odd that were only unconscious, or the fifteen- 
sixteen hundred men outside the converter when 
it happened?” 

Palmer wiggled his jaw muscles tensely. “Jor- 
genson would have reported or been reported fifty 
times. Every man out there wants him around 
to boss things. He's gotta be in your ward.” 

“He isn’t, I tell you! And how about moving 
some of the fellows here into the city hospitals?" 

"Tried — hospitals must have been tipped off 
somehow about the radioactives in the flesh, and 
they refuse to let a man from here be brought in." 
Palmer was talking with only the surface of his 
mind, his cheek muscles bobbing as if he were 
chewing his thoughts and finding them tough. 
“Jorgenson — Hoke — and Kellar's been dead for 
years. Not another man in the whole country 
that understands this field enough to make a decent 
guess, even; I get lost on Page 6 myself. Ferrel, 
could a man in a Tomlin five-shield armor suit 
make the safety in twenty seconds, do you think, 
from — say beside the converter?" 

Ferrel considered it rapidly. A Tomlin weighed 
about four hundred pounds, and Jorgenson was an 
ox of a man, but only human. “Under the stress 
of an emergency, it’s impossible to guess what a 
man can do, Palmer, but I don’t see how he could 
work his way half that distance.” 



NERVES 



67 



“Hra-m-m, I figured. Could he live, then, sup- 
posing he wasn’t squashed? Those suits carry 
their own air for twenty-four hours, you know, 
to avoid any air cracks, pumping the carbon- 
dioxide back under pressure and condensing the 
moisture out — no openings of any kind. They've 
got the best insulation of all kinds we know, too.’’ 

“One chance in a billion, I’d guess; but again, 
it’s darned hard to put any exact limit on what 
can be done — miracles keep happening, every day. 
Going to try it?" 

“What else can I do? There’s no alternative. 
I’ll meet you outside No. 4 just as soon as you 
can make it, and bring everything you need to 
start working at once. Seconds may count!” 
Palmer’s face slid sideways and up as he was 
reaching for the button, and Ferrel wasted no 
time in imitating the motion. 

By all logic, there wasn’t a chance, even in a 
Tomlin. But, until they knew, the effort would 
have to be made; chances couldn’t be taken when 
a complicated process had gone out of control, with 
now almost certainty that Isotope R was the result 
— Palmer was concealing nothing, even though he 
had stated nothing specifically. And obviously, 
if Hoke couldn’t handle it, none of the men at other 
branches of National Atomic or at the smaller 
partially independent plants could make even a 
half-hearted stab at the job. 

It all rested on Jorgenson, then. And Jorgen- 
son must be somewhere under that semimolten hell 
that could drive through the tank armor and send 
men back into the Infirmary with bones broken 
from their own muscular anarchy! 

Ferrel’s face must have shown his thoughts, 
judging by Jenkins’ startled expression. “Jor- 
genson’s still in there somewhere,” he said quickly. 

“Jorgenson! But he’s the man who — Good 
Lord !” 

“Exactly. You’ll stay here and take care of the 
jerk cases that may come in. Brown, I’ll want you 
out there again. Bring everything portable we 
have, in case we can't move him in fast enough; 
get one of the trucks and fit it out; and be out 
with it about twice as fast as you can! I’m grab- 
bing the litter now." He accepted the emergency 
kit Brown thrust into his hands, dumped a caffeine 
tablet into his mouth without bothering to wash 
it down, then was out toward the litter. “No. 4, 
and hurry!" 

Palmer was just jumping off a scooter as they 
cut around No. 3 and in front of the rough fence 
of rope strung out quite a distance beyond 4. 
He glanced at Doc, nodded, and dived in through 
the men grouped around, yelling orders to right 
and left as he went, and was back at Ferrel’s side 
by the time the litter had stopped. 

“O. K., Ferrel, go over there and get into armor 
as quickly as possible! We’re going in there with 

art— SK 



the tanks, whether we can or not, and be damned 
to the quenching for the moment. Briggs, get 
those things out of there, clean out a roadway as 
best you can, throw in the big crane again, and 
we’ll need all the men in armor we can get — give 
them steel rods and get them to probing in there 
for anything solid and big or small enough to be 
a man — five minutes at a stretch; they should be 
able to stand that. I’ll be back pronto!" 

Doc noted the confused mixture of tanks and 
machines of all descriptions clustered around the 
walls — or what was left of them— of the converter 
housing, and saw them yanking out everything 
along one side, leaving an opening where the main 
housing gate had stood, now ripped out to expose 
a crane boom rooting out the worst obstructions. 
Obviously they’d been busy at some kind of at- 
tempt at quenching the action, but his knowledge 
of atomics was too little even to guess at what it 
was. The equipment set up was being pushed 
aside by tanks without dismantling, and men were 
running up into the roped-in section, some already 
armored, others dragging on part of their armor 
as they went. With the help of one of the atom- 
jacks, he climbed into a suit himself, wondering 
what he could do in such a casing if anything 
needed doing. 

Palmer had a suit on before him, though, and 
was waiting beside one of the tanks, squat and 
heavily armored, its front equipped with both a 
shovel and a grapple swinging from movable 
beams. “In here, Doc.” Ferrel followed him into 
the housing of the machine and Palmer grabbed 
the controls as he pulled on a short-wave headset 
and began shouting orders through it toward the 
other tanks that were moving in on their heavy 
treads. The dull drone of the motor picked up, 
and the tank began lumbering forward under the 
manager's direction. 

“Haven’t run one of these since that show-off at 
a picnic seven years ago,” he complained, as he 
kicked at the controls ahd straightened out a 
developing list to left. “Though I used to be 
pretty handy when I was plain engineer. Damned 
static around here almost chokes off the radio, but 
I guess enough gets through. By the best guess 
I can make, Jorgenson should have been near the 
main control panel when it started, and have 
headed for the south chamber. Half the distance, 
you figure?” 

“Possibly, probably slightly less.” 

“Yeah! And then the stuff may have tossed him 
around. But we’ll have to try to get there.” He 
barked into the radio again. “Briggs, get those 
men in suits as close as you can and have them 
fish with their rods about thirty feet to the left 
of the pillar that’s still up — can they get closer?” 

The answer was blurred and pieces missing, but 
the general idea went across. Palmer frowned. 
“O. K., if they can't make it, they can’t; draw 



68 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



them back out of the reach of the stuff and hold 
them ready to go in. . . . No, call for volunteers! 
I’m offering a thousand dollars a minute to every 
man that gets a stick in there, double to his family 
if the stuff gets him, and ten times that — fifty 
thousand — if he locates Jorgenson! . . . Look out, 
you blamed fool!” The last was to one of the 
men who’d started forward, toward the place, 
jumping from one piece of broken building to 
grab at a pillar and swing off in his suit toward 
something that looked like a standing position; 
it toppled, but he managed a leap that carried him 
to another lump, steadied himself, and began prob- 
ing through the mess. "Oof! You with the crane 
— stick it in where you can grab any of the men 
that pass out, if it’ll reach — good! Doc, I know 
as well as you that the men have no business in 
there, even five minutes; but I’ll send in a hun- 
dred more if it’ll find Jorgenson!” 

Doc said nothing — he knew there’d probably 
be a hundred or more fools willing to try, and 
he knew the need of them. The tanks couldn’t 
work their way close enough for any careful in- 
vestigation of the mixed mass of radioactives, ma- 
chinery, building, debris, and destruction, aside 
from which they were much too Blow in such deli- 
cate probing; only men equipped with the long 
steel poles could do that. As he watched, some 
of the activity of the magma suddenly caused an 
eruption, and one of the men tossed up his pole 
and doubled back into a half circle before falling. 
The crane operator shoved the big boom over and 
made a grab, missed, brought it down again, and 
came out with the heaving body held by one arm, 
to run it back along its track and twist it out- 
ward beyond Doc’s vision. 

Even through the tank and the suit, heat was 
pouring in, and there was a faint itching in those 
parts where the armor was thinnest that indi- 
cated the start of a burn — though not as yet dan- 
gerous. He had no desire to think what was hap- 
pening to the men who were trying to worm into 
the heart of it in nothing but armor; nor did he 
care to watch what was happening to them. Palmer 
was trying to inch the machine ahead, but the 
stuff underneath made any progress difficult. 
Twice something spat against the tank, but did 
not penetrate. 

"Five minutes are up,” he told Palmer. “They’d 
all better go directly to Dr. Brown, who should 
be out with the truck now for immediate treat- 
ment.” 

Palmer nodded and relayed the instructions. 
“Pick up all you can with the crane and carry 
them back! Send in a new bunch, Briggs, and 
credit them with their bonus in advance. Damn 
it. Doc, this can go on all day; it’ll take an hour 
to pry around through this mess right here, and 
then he’s probably somewhere else. The stuff 



seems to be getting worse in this neighborhood, 
too, from what accounts I’ve had before. Wonder 
if that steel plate could be pushed down?” 

He threw in the clutch engaging the motor to 
the treads and managed to twist through toward 
it. There was a slight slipping of the lugs, then 
the tractors caught, and the nose of the tank thrust 
forward; almost without effort, the fragment of 
housing toppled from its leaning position and slid 
forward. The tank growled, fumbled, and slowly 
climbed up onto it and ran forward another 
twenty feet to its end ; the support settled slowly, 
but something underneath checked it, and they 
were still again. Palmer worked the grapple for- 
ward, nosing a big piece of masonry out of the 
way, and two men reached out with the ends of 
their poles to begin probing, futilely. Another 
change of men came out, then another. 

Briggs’ voice crackled erratically through the 
speaker again. “Palmer, I got a fool here who 
wants to go out on the end of your beam, if you 
can swing around so the crane can lift him out 
to it.” 

"Start him coming!” Again he began jerking 
the levers, and the tank bucked and heaved, backed 
and turned, ran forward, and repeated it all, while 
the plate that was holding them flopped up and 
down on its precarious balance. 

Doc held his breath and began praying to him- 
self; his admiration for the men who’d go out 
in that stuff was increasing by leaps and bounds, 
along with his respect for Palmer’s ability. 

The crane boom bobbed toward them, and the 
scoop came running out, but wouldn’t quite reach; 
their own tank was relatively light and mobile 
compared to the bigger machine, but Palmer al- 
ready had that pushed out to the limit, and hang- 
ing over the edge of the plate. It still lacked 
three feet of reaching. 

“Damn!" Palmer slapped open the door of 
the tank, jumped forward on the tread, and looked 
down briefly before coming back inside. “No 
chance to get closer! Wheeoo! Those men earn 
their money.” 

But the crane operator had his own tricks, and 
was bobbing the boom of his machine up and 
down slowly with a motion that set the scoop 
swinging like a huge pendulum, bringing it gradu- 
ally closer to the grapple beam. The man had 
an arm out, and finally caught the beam, swinging 
out instantly from the scoop that drew backward 
behind him. He hung suspended for a second, 
pitching his body around to a better position, 
then somehow wiggled up onto the end and braced 
himself with his legs. Doc let his breath out 
and Palmer inched the tank around to a forward 
position again. Now the pole of the atomjack 
could cover the wide territory before them, and 
he began using it rapidly. 



NERVES 




“Win or lose, that man gets a triple bonus," 
Palmer muttered. “Uh !” 

The pole had located something, and was feel- 
ing around to determine size; the man glanced at 
them and pointed frantically. Doc jumped for- 
ward to the windows as Palmer ran down the 
grapple and began pushing it down into the semi- 
molten stuff under the pole ; there was resistance 
there, but finally the prong of the grapple broke 
under and struck on something that refused to 
come up. The manager’s hands moved the con- 
trols gently, making it tug from side to side; 
reluctantly, it gave and moved forward toward 
them, coming upward until they could make out 
the general shape. It was definitely no Tomlin 
suit! 

“Lead hopper box! Damn — Wait, Jorgen- 
son wasn’t anybody’s fool ; when he saw he couldn’t 
make the safety, he might . . . maybe — ” Palmer 
slapped the grapple down again, against the closed 
lid of the chest, but the hook was too large. Then 
the man clinging there caught the idea and slid 
down to the hopper chest, his armored hands 
grabbing at the lid. He managed to lift a corner 
of it until the grapple could catch and lift it the 



rest of the way, and his hands started down to 
jerk upward again. 

The manager watched his motions, then flipped 
the box over with the grapple, and pulled it closer 
to the tank body; magma was running out, but 
there was a gleam of something else inside. 

“Start praying, Doc!” Palmer worked it to the 
side of the tank and was out through the door 
again, letting the merciless heat and radiation 
stream in. 

But Ferrel wasn’t bothering with that now; he 
followed, reaching down into the chest to help 
the other two lift out the body of a huge man 
in a five-shield Tomlin! Somehow, they wangled 
the six-hundred-odd pounds out and up on the 
treads, then into the housing, barely big enough 
for all of them. The atomjack pulled himself 
inside, shut the door, and flopped forward on his 
face, out cold. 

“Never mind him — check Jorgenson!” Palmer’s 
voice was heavy with the reaction from the hunt, 
but he turned the tank and sent it outward at top 
speed, regardless of risk. Contrarily, it bucked 
through the mass more readily than it had crawled 
in through the cleared section. 

Ferrel unscrewed the front plate of the armor 




70 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



on Jorgenson as rapidly as he could, though he 
knew already that the man was still miraculously 
alive — corpses don’t jerk with force enough to 
move a four-hundred-pound suit appreciably. A 
side glance, as they drew beyond the wreck of 
the converter housing, showed the men already 
beginning to set up equipment to quell the atomic 
reaction again, but the armor front plate came 
loose at last, and he dropped his eyes back with- 
out noticing details, to cut out a section of cloth- 
ing and make the needed injections; curare first, 
then neo-heroin, and curare again, though he did 
not dare inject the quantity that seemed neces- 
sary. There was nothing more he could do until 
they could get the man out of his armor. He 
turned to the atomjack, who was already sitting 
up, propped against the driving seat’s back. 

“ ’Snothing much, Doc,” the fellow managed. 
"No jerks, just burn and that damned heat! Jor- 
genson?" 

"Alive at least,” Palmer answered, with some 
relief. The tank stopped, and Ferrel could see 
Brown running forward from beside a truck. “Get 
that suit off you, get yourself treated for the 
burn, then go up to the office where the check 
will be ready for you!" 

"Fifty-thousand check?” The doubt in the voice 
registered over the weakness. 

"Fifty thousand plus triple your minute time, 
and cheap ; maybe we’ll toss in a medal or a bottle 
of Scotch, too. Here, you fellows give a hand.” 

Ferrel had the suit ripped off with Brown’s 
assistance, and paused only long enough for one 
grateful breath of clean, cool air before leading 
the way toward the truck. As he neared it, Jen- 
kins popped out, directing a group of men to move 
two loaded stretchers onto the litter, and nod- 
ding jerkily at Ferrel. “With the truck all 
equipped, we decided to move out here and take 
care of the damage as it came up — Sue and I 
rushed them through enough to do until we can 
find more time, so we could give full attention to 
Jorgenson. He’s still living!” 

"By a miracle. Stay out here, Brown, until 
you’ve finished with the men from inside, then 
we’ll try to find some rest for you.” 

The three huskies carrying Jorgenson placed 
the body on the table set up, and began ripiping 
off the bulky armor as the truck got under way. 
Fresh gloves came out of a small sterilizer, and 
the two doctors fell to work at once, treating the 
badly burned flesh and trying to locate and remove 
the worst of the radioactive matter. 

“No use.” Doc stepped back and shook his head. 
“It’s all over him, probably clear into his bones in 
places. We’d have to put him through a filter to 
get it all out!” 

Palmer was looking down at the raw mass of 
flesh, with all the layman’s sickness at such a sight. 
“Can you fix him up, Ferrel?” 



“We can try, that’s all. Only explanation I can 
give for his being alive at all is that the hopper 
box must have been pretty well above the stuff 
until a short time ago — very short — and this stuff 
didn't work in until it sank. He’s practically 
dehydrated now, apparently, but he couldn’t have 
perspired enough to keep from dying of heat if 
he’d been under all that for even an hour — insula- 
tion or no insulation.” There was admiration in 
Doc’s eyes as he looked down at the immense figure 
of the man. "And he’s tough; if he weren’t, he’d 
have killed himself by exhaustion, even confined 
inside that suit and box, after the jerks set in. 
He’s close to having done so, anyway. Until we 
can find some way of getting that stuff out of him, 
we don’t dare risk getting rid of the curare’s ef- 
fect — that’s a time-consuming job, in itself. Better 
give him another water and sugar intravenous, 
Jenkins. Then, if we do fix him up, Palmer, I’d 
say it’s a fifty-fifty chance whether or not all this 
hasn’t driven him stark crazy.” 

The truck had stopped, and the men lifted the 
stretcher off and carried it inside as Jenkins fin- 
ished the injection. He went ahead of them, but 
Doc stopped outside to take Palmer’s cigarette for 
a long drag, and let them go ahead. 

"Cheerful!” The manager lighted another from 
the butt, his shoulders sagging. "I’ve been trying 
to think of one man who might possibly be of 
some help to us, Doc, and there isn’t such a person 
— anywhere. I’m sure now, after being in there, 
that Hoke couldn’t do it. Kellar, if he were still 
alive, could probably pull the answer out of a hat 
after three looks — he had an instinct and genius 
for it; the best man the business ever had, even if 
his tricks did threaten to steal our work out from 
under us and give him the lead. But — well, now 
there’s Jorgenson — either he gets in shape, or 
else!” 

Jenkins’ frantic yell reached them suddenly. 
“Doc! Jorgenson’s dead! He’s stopped breathing 
entirely!” 

Doc jerked forward into a full run, a white- 
faced Palmer at his heels. 

IV. 

Dodd was working artificial respiration and Jen- 
kins had the oxygen mask in his hands, adjusting 
it over Jorgenson’s face, before Ferrel reached the 
table. He made a grab for the pulse that had been 
fluttering weakly enough before, felt it flicker 
feebly once, pause for about three times normal 
period, lift feebly again, and then stop completely. 
“Adrenalin!” 

"Already shot it into his heart, Doc! Cardia- 
cine, too !” The boy’s voice was bordering on hys- 
teria, but Palmer was obviously closer to it than 
Jenkins. 

“Doc, you gotta — ” 



NERVES 



71 



“Get the hell out of here !” Ferrel’s hands sud- 
denly had a life of their own as he grabbed franti- 
cally for instruments, ripped bandages off the 
man’s chest, and began working against time, when 
time had all the advantages. It wasn’t surgery — 
hardly good butchery; the bones that he cut 
through so ruthlessly with savage strokes of an 
instrument could never heal smoothly after being 
so mangled. But he couldn't worry about minor 
details now. 

He tossed back the flap of flesh and ribs that he’d 
hacked out. “Stop the bleeding, Jenkins!’’ Then 
his hands plunged into the chest cavity, somehow 
finding room around Dodd’s and Jenkins,’ and 
were suddenly incredibly gentle as they located the 
heart itself and began working on it, the skilled, 
exact massage of a man who knew every function 
of the vital organ. Pressure here, there, relax, 
pressure again; take it easy, don’t rush things! 
It would do no good to try to set it going as 
feverishly as his emotions demanded. Pure oxygen 
was feeding into the lungs, and the heart could 
safely do less work. Hold it steady, one beat a 
second, sixty a minute. 

It had been perhaps half a minute from the time 
the heart stopped before his massage was circulat- 
ing blood again; too little time to worry about 
damage to the brain, the first part to be per- 
manently affected by stoppage of the circulation. 
Now, if the heart could start again by itself within 
any reasonable time, death would be cheated again. 
How long? He had no idea. They’d taught him 
ten minutes when he was studying medicine, then 
there'd been a case of twenty minutes once, and 
while he was interning it had been pushed up to a 
record of slightly over an hour, which still stood ; 
but that was an exceptional case. Jorgenson, 
praise be, was a normally healthy and vigorous 
specimen, and his system had been in first-class 
condition, but with the torture of those long hours, 
the radioactive, narcotic and curare all fighting 
against him, still one more miracle was needed to 
keep his life going. 

Press, message, relax, don't hurry it too much. 
There! For a second, his fingers felt a faint flut- 
ter, then again; but it stopped. Still, as long as 
the organ could show such signs, there was hope, 
unless his fingers grew too tired and he muffed the 
job before the moment when the heart could be 
safely trusted by itself. 

“Jenkins!" 

“Yes, sir!” 

“Ever do any heart massage?" 

“Practiced it in school, sir, on a model, but 
never actually. Oh, a dog in dissection class, for 
five minutes. I ... I don’t think you’d better 
trust me, Doc.” 

“I may have to. If you did it on a dog for five 
minutes, you can do it on a man, probably. You 



know what hangs on it — you saw the converter 
and know what’s going on.” 

Jenkins nodded, the tense nod he’d used earlier. 
“I know — that’s why you can’t trust me. I told you 
I’d let you know when I was going to crack — well, 
it’s damned near here!” 

Could a man tell his weakness, if he were about 
finished? Doc didn’t know; he suspected that the 
boy’s own awareness of his nerves would speed up 
such a break, if anything, but Jenkins was a queer 
case, having taut nerves sticking out all over him, 
yet a steadiness under fire that few older men 
could have equaled. If he had to use him, he 
would ; there was no other answer. 

Doc’s fingers were already feeling stiff — not yet 
tired, but showing signs of becoming so. Another 
few minutes, and he'd have to stop. There was the 
flutter again, one — two — three! Then it stopped. 
There had to be some other solution to this ; it was 
impossible to keep it up for the length of time 
probably needed, even if he and Jenkins spelled 
each other. Only Michel at Mayo’s could — 
Mayo’s! If they could get it here in time, that 
wrinkle he’d seen demonstrated at their last medi- 
cal convention was the answer. 

“Jenkins, call Mayo's — you’ll have to get Pal- 
mer’s O. K., I guess — ask for Kubelik, and bring 
the extension where I can talk to him!” 

He could hear Jenkins' voice, level enough at 
first, then with a depth of feeling he’d have 
thought impossible in the boy. Dodd looked at 
him quickly and managed a grim smile, even as 
she continued with the respiration ; nothing could 
make her blush, though it should have done so. 

The boy jumped back. “No soap, Doc ! Palmer 
can’t be located — and that post-mortem miscon- 
ception at the board won’t listen.” 

Doc studied his hands in silence, wondering, 
then gave it up; there’d be no hope of his lasting 
while he sent out the boy. “O. K., Jenkins, you’ll 
have to take over here, then. Steady does it, come 
on in slowly, get your fingers over mine. Now, 
catch the motion? Easy, don’t rush things. You’ll 
hold out — you’ll have to! You’ve done better than 
I had any right to ask for so far, and you don’t 
need to distrust yourself. There, got it?” 

“Got it, Doc. I’ll try, but for Pete’s sake, what- 
ever you’re planning, get back here quick! I’m 
not lying about cracking ! You’d better let Meyers 
replace Dodd and have Sue called back in here; 
she’s the best nerve tonic I know.” 

“Call her in then, Dodd.” Doc picked up a 
hypodermic syringe, filled it quickly with water 
to which a drop of another liquid added a brown- 
ish-yellow color, and forced his tired old legs into 
a reasonably rapid trot out of the side door and 
toward Communications. Maybe the switchboard 
operator was stubborn, but there were ways of 
handling people. 



72 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



He hadn’t counted on the guard outside the 
Communications Building, though. “Halt!” 

“Life or death; I’m a physician.” 

"Not in here — I got orders.” The bayonet’s 
menace apparently wasn’t enough; the rifle went 
up to the man’s shoulder, and his chin jutted put 
with the stubbornness of petty authority and re- 
liance on orders. “Nobody sick here. There’s 
plenty of phones elsewhere. You get back — and 
fast!” 

Doc started forward and there was a faint click 
from the rifle as the safety went off ; the darned 
fool meant what he said. Shrugging, Ferrel 
stepped back — and brought the hypodermic needle 
up inconspicuously in line with the guard’s face. 
"Ever see one of these things squirt curare? It 
can reach before your bullet hits!” 

“Curare?” The guard’s eyes flicked to the 
needle, and doubt came into them. The man 
frowned. "That’s the stuff that kills people on 
arrows, ain’t it?” 

“It is — cobra venom, you know. One drop on the 
outside of your skin and you’re dead in ten sec- 
onds.” Both statements were out-and-out lies, but 
Doc was counting on the superstitious ignorance 
of the average man in connection with poisons. 
“This little needle can spray you with it very 
nicely, and it may be a fast death, but not a 
pleasant one. Want to put down the rifle?” 

A regular might have shot; but the militiaman 
was taking no chances. He lowered the rifle 
gingerly, his eyes on the needle, then kicked the 
weapon aside at Doc’s motion. Ferrel approached, 
holding the needle out, and the man shrank back- 
ward and away, letting him pick up the rifle as 
he went past to avoid being shot in the back. Lost 
time! But he knew his way around this little 
building, at least, and went straight toward the girl 
at the board. 

“Get up!” His voice came from behind her 
shoulder and she turned to see the rifle in one of 
his hands, the needle in the other, almost touching 
her throat. “This is loaded with curare, deadly 
poison, and too much hangs on getting a call 
through to bother with physician’s oaths right 
now, young lady. Up! No plugs! That’s right; 
now get over there, out of the cell — there, on your 
face, cross your hands behind your back, and grab 
your ankles — right! Now if you move, you won’t 
move long!” 

Those gangster pictures he’d seen were handy, 
at that. She was thoroughly frightened and 
docile. But, perhaps, not so much so she might 
not have bungled his call deliberately. He had to 
do that himself. Darn it, the red lights were trunk 
lines, but which plug — try the inside one, it looked 
more logical ; he’d seen it done, but couldn’t remem- 
ber. Now, you flip back one of these switches — 
uh-uh, the other way. The tone came in assuring 
him he had it right, and he dialed operator rapidly, 



his eyes flickering toward the girl lying on the 
floor, his thoughts on Jenkins and the wasted time 
running on. 

"Operator, this is an emergency. I’m Walnut, 
7654; I want to put in a long-distance call to 
Dr. Kubelik, Mayo’s Hospital, Rochester, Min- 
nesota. If Kubelik isn’t there, I’ll take anyone 
else who answers from his department. Speed is 
urgent.” 

“Very good, sir.” Long-distance operators, 
mercifully, were usually efficient. There was the 
repeated signals and clicks of relays as she put it 
through, the answer from the hospital board, more 
wasted time, and then a face appeared on the 
screen; but not that of Kubelik. It was a much 
younger man. 

Ferrel wasted no time in introduction. "I’ve got 
an emergency case here where all Hades depends 
on saving a man, and it can’t be done without that 
machine of Dr. Kubelik’s; he knows me, if he’s 
there — I’m Ferrel, met him at the convention, got 
him to show me how the thing worked.” 

“Kubelik hasn’t come in yet, Dr. Ferrel; I’m his 
assistant. But, if you mean the heart and lung 
exciter, it’s already boxed and supposed to leave 
for Harvard this morning. They’ve got a rush 
case out there, and may need it — ” 

“Not as much as I do.” 

“I’ll have to call — Wait a minute, Dr. Ferrel, 
seems I remember your name now. Aren’t you the 
chap with National Atomic?” 

Doc nodded. “The same. Now, about that ma- 
chine, if you’ll stop the formalities — ” 

The face on the screen nodded, instant deter- 
mination showing, with an underlying expression 
of something else. “We’ll ship it down to you 
instantly, Ferrel. Got a field for a plane?” 

“Not within three miles, but I’ll have a truck 
sent out for it. How long?” 

“Take too long by truck if you need it down 
there, Ferrel; I'll arrange to transship in air 
from our special speedster to a helicopter, have it 
delivered wherever you want. About — um, load- 
ing plane, flying a couple hundred miles, trans- 
shipping — about half an hour’s the best we can do.” 
“Make it the square of land south of the Infir- 
mary, which is crossed visibly from the air. 
Thanks!” 

“Wait, Dr. Ferrel!” The younger man checked 
Doc’s cut-off. “Can you use it when you get it? 
It’s tricky work.” 

“Kubelik gave quite a demonstration and I’m 
used to tricky work. I’ll chance it — have to. Too 
long to rouse Kubelik himself, isn’t it?” 

“Probably. O. K., I’ve got the telescript reply 
from the shipping office, it’s starting for the plane. 
I wish you luck!” 

Ferrel nodded his thanks, wondering. Service 
like that was welcome, but it wasn’t the most 
comforting thing, mentally, to know that the mere 



NERVES 



73 



mention of National Atomic would cause such an 
about-face. Rumors, it seemed, were spreading, 
and in a hurry, in spite of Palmer’s best attempts. 
Good Lord, what was going on here? He’d been 
too busy for any serious worrying or to realize, 
but — well, it had gotten him the exciter, and for 
that he should be thankful. 

The guard was starting uncertainly off for rein- 
forcements when Doc came out, and he realized 
that the seemingly endless call must have been over 
in short order. He tossed the rifle well out of the 
man’s reach and headed back toward the Infirmary 
at a run, wondering how Jenkins had made out — 
it had to be all right! 

Jenkins wasn’t standing over the body of Jor- 
genson; Brown was there instead, her eyes moist 
and her face pinched in and white around the 
nostrils that stood out at full width. She looked 
up, shook her head at him as he started forward, 
and went on working at Jorgenson’s heart. 

“Jenkins cracked?” 

“Nonsense! This is woman's work, Dr. Ferrel, 
and I took over for him, that’s all. You men try 
to use brute force all your life and then wonder 
why a woman can do twice as much delicate work 
where strong muscles are a nuisance. I chased 
him out and took over, that’s all.” But there was 
a catch in her voice as she said it, and Meyers was 
looking down entirely too intently at the work of 
artificial respiration. 

“Hi, Doc!” It was Blake’s voice that broke in. 
“Get away from there; when this Dr. Brown needs 
help. I’ll be right in there. I've been sleeping like 
a darned fool all night, from four this morning on. 
Didn't hear the phone, or something, didn't know 
what was going on until I got to the gate out there. 
You go rest.” 

Ferrel grunted in relief ; Blake might have been 
dead drunk when he finally reached home, which 
would explain his not hearing the phone, but his 
animal virility had soaked it out with no visible 
sign. The only change was the absence of the 
usual cocky grin on his face as he moved over 
beside Brown to test Jorgenson. “Thank the Lord 
you’re here, Blake. How’s Jorgenson doing?” 

Brown’s voice answered in a monotone, words 
coming in time to the motions of her fingers. “His 
heart shows signs of coming around once in a 
while, but it doesn’t last. He isn’t getting worse 
from what I can tell, though.” 

“Good. If we can keep him going half an hour 
more, we can turn all this over to a machine. 
Where’s Jenkins?” 

“A machine? Oh, the Kubelik exciter, of course. 
He was working on it when I was there. We’ll 
keep Jorgenson alive until then, anyway, 
Dr. Ferrel." 

“Where’s Jenkins?” he repeated sharply, when 



she stopped with no intention of answering the 
former question. 

Blake pointed toward Ferrel’s office, the door of 
which was now closed. “In there. But lay off 
him, Doc. I saw the whole thing, and he feels like 
the deuce about it. He’s a good kid, but only a kid, 
and this kind of hell could get any of us.” 

“I know all that.” Doc headed toward the office, 
as much for a smoke as anything else. The sight 
of Blake’s rested face was somehow an island of 
reassurance in this sea of fatigue and nerves. 
“Don’t worry, Brown, I’m not planning on lacing 
him down, so you needn’t defend your man so 
carefully. It was my fault for not listening to 
him.” 

Brown's eyes were pathetically grateful in the 
brief flash she threw him, and he felt like a heel 
for the gruffness that had been his first reaction 
toward Jenkins’ absence. If this kept on much 
longer, though, they’d all be in worse shape than 
the boy, whose back was toward him as he opened 
the door. The still, huddled shape did not raise 
its head from its arms as Ferrel put his hand onto 
one shoulder, and the voice was muffled and dis- 
tant. 

“I cracked, Doc — high, wide and handsome, all 
over the place. I couldn’t take it! Standing there, 
Jorgenson maybe dying because I couldn’t control 
myself right, the whole plant blowing up, all my 
fault. I kept telling myself I was O. K., I’d go on, 
then I cracked. Screamed like a baby! Dr. Jen- 
kins — nerve specialist!” 

"Yeah. . . . Here, are you going to drink this, 
or do I have to hold your blasted nose and pour 
it down your throat?” It was crude psychology, 
but it worked, and Doc handed over the drink, 
waited for the other to down it, and passed a 
cigarette across before sinking into his own chair. 
“You warned me, Jenkins, and I risked it on my 
own responsibility, so nobody's kicking. But I'd 
like to ask a couple of questions.” 

“Go ahead — what’s the difference?" Jenkins had 
recovered a little, obviously, from the note of de- 
fiance that managed to creep into his voice. 

“Did you know Brown could handle that kind of 
work? And did you pull your hands out before 
she could get hers in to replace them?” 

“She told me she could. I didn’t know before. 
I dunno about the other; I think . . . yeah, Doc, 
she had her hands over mine. But — ” 

Ferrel nodded, satisfied with his own guess. “I 
thought so. You didn’t crack, as you put it, until 
your mind knew it was safe to do so— and then 
you simply passed the work on. By that defini- 
tion, I’m cracking, too. I’m sitting in here, smok- 
ing, talking to you, when out there a man needs 
attention. The fact that he’s getting it from two 
others, one practically fresh, the other at least a 
lot better off than we are, doesn’t have a thing to 
do with it, does it?” 



74 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“But it wasn’t that way. Doc. I’m not asking 
for grandstand stuff from anybody.” 

“Nobody's giving it to you, son. All right, you 
screamed — why not? It didn’t hurt anything. I 
growled at Brown when I came in for the same 
reason — exhausted, overstrained nerves. If I went 
out there and had to take over from them, I’d 
probably scream myself, or start biting my tongue 
—nerves have to have an outlet ; physically, it does 
them no good, but there’s a psychological need for 
it.” The boy wasn’t convinced, and Doc sat back 
in the chair, staring at him thoughtfully. “Ever 
wonder why I’m here?” 

“No, sir.” 

"Well, you might. Twenty-seven years ago, 
when I was about your age, there wasn’t a surgeon 
in this country — or the world, for that matter — ■ 
who had the reputation I had ; any kind of surgery, 
brain, what have you. They’re still using some of 
my techniques . . . uh-hum, thought you’d remem- 
ber when the association of names hit you. I had 
a different wife then, Jenkins, and there was a baby 
coming. Brain tumor — I had to do it, no one else 
could. I did it, somehow, but I went out of that 
operating room in a haze, and it was three days 
later when they’d tell me she’d died ; not my fault 
— I know that now — but I couldn’t realize it then. 

"So, I tried setting up as a general practitioner. 
No more surgery for me! And because I was a fair 
diagnostician, which most surgeons aren’t, I made 
a living, at least. Then, when this company was 
set up, I applied for the job, and got it; I still had 
a reputation of sorts. It was a new field, some- 
thing requiring study and research, and damned 
near every ability of most specialists plus a gen- 
eral practitioner’s, so it kept me busy enough to 
get over my phobia of surgery. Compared to me, 
you don’t know what nerves or cracking means. 
That little scream was a minor incident.” 

Jenkins made no comment, but lighted the ciga- 
rette he’d been holding. Ferrel relaxed farther 
into the chair, knowing that he’d be called if there 
was any need for his work, and glad to get his mind 
at least partially off Jorgenson. “It’s hard to find 
a man for this work, Jenkins. It takes too much 
ability at too many fields, even though it pays well 
enough. We went through plenty of applicants 
before we decided on you, and I’m not regretting 
our choice. As a matter of fact, you’re better 
equipped for the job than Blake was — your record 
looked as if you’d deliberately tried for this kind 
of work.” 

“I did.” 

“Hm-m-m.” That was the one answer Doc had 
least expected ; so far as he knew, no one deliber- 
ately tried for a job at Atomics — they usually 
wound up trying for it after comparing their re- 
ceipts for a year or so with the salary paid by 
National. “Then you knew what was needed and 



picked it up in toto. Mind if I ask why?” 

Jenkins shrugged. "Why not? Turnabout’s fair 
play. It’s kind of complicated, but the gist of it 
doesn’t take much telling. Dad had an atomic 
plant of his own — and a darned good one, too, 
Doc, even if it wasn’t as big as National. I was 
working in it when I was fifteen, and I went 
through two years of university work in atomics 
with the best intentions of carrying on the busi- 
ness. Sue — well, she was the neighbor girl I fol- 
lowed around, and we had money at the time; 
that wasn’t why she married me, though. I never 
did figure that out — she’d had a hard enough life, 
but she was already holding down a job at Mayo's, 
and I was just a raw kid. Anyway — 

“The day we came home from our honeymoon, 
dad got a big contract on a new process we’d 
worked out. It took some swinging, but he got 
the equipment and started it. . . . My guess is that 
one of the controls broke through faulty construc- 
tion; the process was right! We’d been over it 
too often not to know what it would do. But, 
when the estate was cleared up, I had to give up 
the idea of a degree in atomics, and Sue was back 
working at the hospital. Atomic courses cost real 
money. Then one of Sue’s medical acquaintances 
fixed it for me to get a scholarship in medicine 
that almost took care of it, so I chose the next 
best thing to what I wanted.” 

“National and one of the biggest competitors — 
if you can call it that — are permitted to give 
degrees in atomics,” Doc reminded the boy. The 
field was still too new to be a standing university 
course, and there were no better teachers in the 
business than such men as Palmer, Hokusai and 
Jorgenson. “They pay a salary while you’re learn- 
ing, too.” 

“Hm-m-m. Takes ten years that way, and the 
salary’s just enough for a single man. No, I’d 
married Sue with the intention she wouldn’t have 
to work again; well, she did until I finished in- 
ternship, but I knew if I got the job here I could 
support her. As an atomjack, working up to an 
engineer, the prospects weren’t so good. We’re 
saving a little money now, and some day maybe 
I’ll get a crack at it yet. . . . Doc, what’s this all 
about? You babying me out of my fit?” 

Ferrel grinned at the boy. “Nothing else, son, 
though I was curious. And it worked. Feel all 
right now, don’t you?” 

“Mostly, except for what’s going on out there — 
I got too much of a look at it from the truck. Oh, 
I could use some sleep, I guess, but I’m O. K. 
again.” 

“Good.” Doc had profited almost as much as 
Jenkins from the rambling off -trail talk, and had 
managed more rest from it than from nursing his 
own thoughts. "Suppose we go out and see how 
they’re making out with Jorgenson? Um, what 
happened to Hoke, come to think of it?” 



NERVES 



7J 



“Hoke? Oh, he’s in my office now, figuring out 
things with a pencil and paper since we wouldn’t 
let him go back out there. I was wondering — ” 

“Atomics? , . . Then suppose you go in and talk 
to him; he’s a good guy, and he won’t give you 
the brush-off. Nobody else around here apparently 
suspected this Isotope R business, and you might 
offer a fresh lead for him. With Blake and the 
nurses here and the men out of the mess except 
for the tanks, there’s not much you can do to help 
on my end.” 

Ferrel felt better at peace with the world than 
he had since the call from Palmer as he watched 
Jenkins head off across the surgery toward his 
office; and the glance that Brown threw, first to- 
ward the boy, then back at Doc, didn’t make him 
feel worse. That girl could say more with her eyes 
than most women could with their mouths! He 
went over toward the operating table where Blake 
was now working the heart message with one of the 
fresh nurses attending to respiration and casting 
longing glances toward the mechanical lung ap- 
paratus; it couldn't be used in this case, since 
Jorgenson’s chest had to be free for heart atten- 
tion. 

Blake looked up, his expression worried. “This 
isn’t so good, Doc. He’s been sinking in the last 
few minutes. I was just going to call you. I — ” 

The last words were drowned out by the bull- 
throated drone that came dropping down from 
above them, a sound peculiarly characteristic of 
the heavy Sikorsky freighters with their modified 
blades to gain lift. Ferrel nodded at Brown’s ques- 
tioning glance, but he didn't choose to shout as his 
hands went over those of Blake and took over the 
delicate work of simulating the natural heart 
action. As Blake withdrew, the sound stopped, 
and Doc motioned him out with his head. 

“You’d better go to them and oversee bringing 
in the apparatus — and grab up any of the men you 
see to act as porters — or send Jones for them. The 
machine is an experimental model, and pretty 
cumbersome; must weigh seven-eight hundred 
pounds.” 

“I'll get them myself — Jones is sleeping." 

There was no flutter to Jorgenson’s heart under 
Doc’s deft manipulations, though he was exerting 
every bit of skill he possessed. “How long since 
there was a sign?” 

“About four minutes, now. Doc, is there still 
a chance?” 

“Hard to say. Get the machine, though, and 
we’ll hope.” 

But still the heart refused to respond, though 
the pressure and manipulation kept the blood cir- 
culating and would at least prevent any starving 
or asphyxiation of the body cells. Carefully, 
delicately, he brought his mind into his fingers, 
trying to woo a faint quiver. Perhaps he did, once, 
but he couldn’t be sure. It all depended on how 



quickly they could get the machine working now. 
and how long a man could live by manipulation 
alone. That point was still unsettled. 

But there was no question about the fact that 
the spark of life burned faintly and steadily lower 
in Jorgenson, while outside the man-made hell 
went on ticking off the minutes that separated it 
from becoming Mahler’s Isotope. Normally, Doc 
was an agnostic, but now, unconsciously, his mind 
slipped back into the simple faith of his childhood, 
and he heard Brown echoing the prayer that was 
on his lips. The second hand of the watch before 
him swung around and around and around again 
before he heard the sound of men’s feet at the 
back entrance, and still there was no definite quiver 
from the heart under his fingers. How much time 
did he have left, if any, for the difficult and un- 
familiar operation required? 

His side glance showed the seemingly innumera- 
ble filaments of platinum that had to be connected 
into the nerves governing Jorgenson’s heart and 
lungs, all carefully coded, yet almost terrifying in 
their complexity. If he made a mistake any- 
where, it was at least certain there would be no 
time for a second trial; if his fingers shook or his 
tired eyes clouded at the wrong instant, there 
would be no help from Jorgenson. Jorgenson 
would be dead! 

V. 

“Take over massage, Brown,” he ordered. “And 
keep it up no matter what happens. Good. Dodd, 
assist me, and hang onto my signals. If it works, 
we can all rest afterward." 

Ferrel wondered grimly with that part of his 
mind that was off by itself whether he could justify 
his boast to Jenkins of having been the world's 
greatest surgeon; it had been true once, he knew 
with no need for false modesty, but that was long 
ago, and this was at best a devilish job. He'd hung 
on with a surge of the old fascination as Kubelik 
had performed it on a dog at the convention, and 
his memory for such details was still good, as 
were his hands. But something else goes into the 
making of a great surgeon, and he wondered if 
that were still with him. 

Then, as his fingers made the microscopic little 
motions needed and Dodd became another pair of 
hands, he ceased wondering. Whatever it was, 
he could feel it surging through him, and there 
was a pure joy to it somewhere, over and above 
the urgency of the work. This was probably the 
last time he’d ever feel it, and if the operation 
succeeded, probably it was a thing he could put 
with the few mental treasures that were still left 
from his former success. The man on the table 
ceased to be Jorgenson, the excessively gadgety 
Infirmary became again the main operating theater 
of that same Mayo’s which had produced Brown 
and this strange new machine, and his fingers were 



76 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




again those of the Great Ferrel, the miracle boy 
from Mayo’s, who could do the impossible twice 
before breakfast without turning a hair. 

Some of his feeling was devoted to the machine 
itself. Massive, ugly, with parts sticking out in 
haphazard order, it was more like something from 
an inquisition chamber than a scientist’s achieve- 
ment, but it worked — he'd seen it functioning. In 
that ugly mass of assorted pieces, little currents 
were generated and modulated to feed out to the 
heart and lungs and replace the orders given by a 
brain that no longer worked or could not get 
through, to co-ordinate breathing and beating ac- 
cording to the need. It was a product of the com- 
bined genius of surgery and electronics, but won- 
derful as the exciter was, it was distinctly sec- 
ondary to the technique Kubelik had evolved for 
selecting and connecting only those nerves and 
nerve bundles necessary, and bringing the almost 
impossible into the limits of surgical possibility. 

Brown interrupted, and that interruption in the 
midst of such an operation indicated clearly the 
strain she was under. “The heart fluttered a little 
then. Dr. Ferrel.” 

Ferrel nodded, untroubled by the interruption. 
Talk, which bothered most surgeons, was habitual 
in his own little staff, and he always managed to 
have one part of his mind reserved for that while 
the rest went on without noticing. “Good. That 
gives us at least double the leeway I expected.” 

His hands went on, first with the heart which was 



the more pressing danger. Would the machine 
work, he wondered, in this case? Curare and radio- 
actives, fighting each other, were an odd combina- 
tion. Yet, the machine controlled the nerves close 
to the vital organ, pounding its message through 
into the muscles, where the curare had a compli- 
cated action that paralyzed the whole nerve, estab- 
lishing a long block to the control impulses from 
the brain. Could the nerve impulses from the ma- 
chine be forced through the short paralyzed pas- 
sages? Probably— the strength of its signals was 
controllable. The only proof was in trying. 

Brown drew back her hands and stared down 
uncomprehendingly. “It’s beating, Dr. Ferrel! 
By itself . . . it’s beating!” 

He nodded again, though the mask concealed 
his smile. His technique was still not faulty, and 
he had performed the operation correctly after 
seeing it once on a dog! He was still the Great 
Ferrel! Then, the ego in him fell back to normal, 
though the lift remained, and hi6 exultation cen- 
tered around the more important problem of Jor- 
genson’s living. And, later, when the lungs began 
moving of themselves as the nurse stopped working 
them, he had been expecting it. The detail work 
remaining was soon over, and he stepped back, 
dropping the mask from his face and pulling off 
his gloves. 

“Congratulations, Dr. Ferrel!” The voice was 
guttural, strange. “A truly great operation— truly 
great. I almost stopped you, but now I am glad 




NERVES 



77 



I did not; it was a pleasure to observe you, sir.” 
Ferrel looked up in amazement at the bearded 
smiling face of Kubelik, and he found no words 
as he accepted the other's hand. But Kubelik ap- 
parently expected none. 

“I, Kubelik, came, you see; I could not trust 
another with the machine, and fortunately I made 
the plane. Then you seemed so sure, so confident — 
so when you did not notice me, I remained in the 
background, cursing myself. Now, I shall return, 
since you have no need of me — the wiser for 
having watched you. . . . No, not a word; not a 
word from you, sir. Don’t destroy your miracle 
with words. The ’copter waits me, I go; but my 
admiration for you remains forever!” 

Ferrel still stood looking down at his hand as 
the roar of the 'copter cut in, then at the breathing 
body with the artery on the neck now pulsing 
regularly. That was all that was needed; he had 
been admired by Kubelik, the man who thought all 
other surgeons were fools and nincompoops. For 
a second or so longer he treasured it, then shrugged 
it off. 

"Now,” he said to the others, as the troubles of 
the plant fell back on his shoulders, “all we have 
to do is hope that Jorgenson’s brain wasn’t injured 
by the session out there, or by this continued ar- 
tificially maintained life, and try to get him in 
condition so he can talk before it’s too late. God 
grant us time! Blake, you know the detail work 
as well as I do, and we can’t both work on it. You 
and the fresh nurses take over, doing the bare 
minimum needed for the patients scattered around 
the wards and waiting room. Any new ones?" 

“None for some time; I think they’ve reached a 
stage where that's over with," Brown answered. 

“I hope so. Then go round up Jenkins and lie 
down somewhere. That goes for you and Meyers, 
too, Dodd. Blake, give us three hours if you can, 
and get us up. There won't be any new develop- 
ments before then, and we’ll save time in the long 
run by resting. Jorgenson’s to get first attention !” 

The old leather chair made a fair sort of bed, 
and Ferrel was too exhausted physically and men- 
tally to be choosy — too exhausted to benefit as 
much as he should from sleep of three hours’ dura- 
tion, for that matter, though it was almost impera- 
tive he try. Idly, he wondered what Palmer would 
think of all his safeguards had he known that 
Kubelik had come into the place so easily and out 
again. Not that it mattered; it was doubtful 
whether anyone else would want to come near, let 
alone inside the plant. 

In that, apparently, he was wrong. It was 
considerably less than the three hours when he 
was awakened to hear the bull-roar of a helicopter 
outside. But sleep clouded his mind too much for 
curiosity and he started to drop back into his 
slumber. Then another sound cut in, jerking him 



out of his drowsiness. It was the sharp sputter 
of a machine gun from the direction of the gate, 
a pause and another burst; an eddy of sleep- 
memory indicated that it had begun before the 
helicopter’s arrival, so it could not be that they 
were gunning. More trouble, and while it was 
none of his business, he could not go back to sleep. 
He got up and went out into the surgery, just as 
a gnomish little man hopped out from the rear 
entrance. 

The fellow scooted toward Ferrel after one 
birdlike glance at Blake, his words spilling out 
with a jerky self-importance that should have been 
funny, but missed it by a small margin ; under the 
surface, sincerity still managed to show. “Dr. Fer- 
rel? Uh. Dr. Kubelik — Mayo’s, you know — he re- 
ported you were short-handed; stacking patients 
in the other rooms. We volunteered for duty — me, 
four other doctors, nine nurses. Probably should 
have checked with you, but couldn’t get a phone 
through. Took the liberty of coming through di- 
rectly, fast as we could push our ’copters." 

Ferrel glanced through the back, and saw that 
there were three of the machines, instead of the 
one he’d thought, with men and equipment piling 
out of them. Mentally he kicked himself for not 
asking help when he’d put through the call; but 
he’d been used to working with his own little 
staff for so long that the ready response of his 
profession to emergencies had been almost for- 
gotten. “You know you’re taking chances coming 
here, naturally? Then, in that case, I’m grateful 
to you and Kubelik. We’ve got about forty pa- 
tients here, all of whom should have considerable 
attention, though I frankly doubt whether there’s 
room for you to work.” 

The man hitched his thumb backward jerkily. 
“Don’t worry about that. Kubelik goes the limit 
when he arranges things. Everything we need 
with us, practically all the hospital's atomic equip- 
ment; though maybe you’ll have to piece us out 
there. Even a field hospital tent, portable wards 
for every patient you have. Want relief in here, 
or would you rather have us simply move out the 
patients to the tent, leave this end to you? Oh, 
Kubelik sent his regards. Amazing of him!” 

Kubelik, it seemed, had a tangible idea of re- 
gards, however dramatically he was inclined to 
express them; with him directing the volunteer 
force, the wonder was that the whole staff and 
equipment hadn't been moved down. “Better leave 
this end,” Ferrel decided. “Those in the wards 
will probably be better off in your tent as well as 
the men now in the waiting room ; we’re equipped 
beautifully for all emergency work, but not used 
to keeping the patients here any length of time, so 
our accommodations that way are rough. Dr. Blake 
will show you around and help you get organized 
in the routine we use here. He’ll get help for you 
in erecting the tent, too. By the way, did you 



78 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



hear the commotion by the entrance as you were 
landing?” 

“We did, indeed. We saw it, too — bunch of men 
in some kind of uniform shooting a machine gun; 
hitting the ground, though. Bunch of other peo- 
ple running back away from it, shaking their fists, 
looked like. We were expecting a dose of the 
same, maybe; didn’t notice us, though.” 

Blake snorted in half amusement. “You proba- 
bly would have gotten it if our manager hadn’t 
forgotten to give orders covering the air approach ; 
they must figure that’s an official route. I saw a 
bunch from the city arguing about their relatives 
in here when I came in this morning, so it must 
have been that.” He motioned the little doctor 
after him, then turned his neck back to address 
Brown. "Show him the results while I'm gone, 
honey.” 

Ferrel forgot his new recruits and swung back 
to the girl. “Bad?” 

She made no comment, but picked up a lead 
shield and placed it over Jorgenson’s chest so that 
it cut off all radiation from the lower part of his 
body, then placed the radiation indicator close to 
the man’s throat. Doc looked once; no more was 
needed. It was obvious that Blake had already 
done his best to remove the radioactive from all 
parts of the body needed for speech, in the hope 
that they might strap down the others and block 
them off with local anatsthetics ; then the curare 
could have been counteracted long enough for such 
information as was needed. Equally obviously, 
he’d failed. There was no sense in going through 
the job of neutralizing the drug’s block only to 
have him under the control of the radioactive still 
present. The stuff was too finely dispersed for 
surgical removal. Now what? He had no answer. 

Jenkins’ lean-sinewed hand took the indicator 
from him for inspection. The boy was already 
frowning as Doc looked up in faint surprise, and 
his face made no change. He nodded slowly. 
“Yeah. I figured as much. That was a beautiful 
piece of work you did, too. Too bad. I was 
watching from the door and you almost convinced 
me he’c^be all right, the way you handled it. But — 
So we have to make out without him; and Hoke 
and Palmer haven’t even cooked up a lead that’s 
worth a good test. Want to come into my office, 
Doc? There’s nothing we can do here.” 

Ferrel followed Jenkins into the little office off 
the now emptied waiting room ; the men from the 
hospital had worked rapidly, it seemed. “So you 
haven’t been sleeping, I take it? Where’s Hokusai 
now?” 

“Out there with Palmer ; he promised to behave, 
if that’ll comfort you. . . . Nice guy, Hoke; I’d 
forgotten what it felt like to talk to an atomic 
engineer without being laughed at. Palmer, too. 
I wish — ” There was a brief lightening to the 



boy’s face and the first glow of normal human 
pride Doc had seen in him. Then he shrugged, and 
it vanished back into his taut cheeks and reddened 
eyes. “We cooked up the wildest kind of a scheme, 
but it isn’t so hot.” 

Hoke’s voice came out of the doorway, as the 
little man came in and sat down carefully in one 
of the three chairs. “No, not sso hot ! It iss fail, 
already. Jorgensson?” 

“Out, no hope there! What happened?” 

Hoke spread his arms, his eyes almost closing. 
“Nothing. We knew it could never work, not sso? 
Misster Palmer, he iss come ssoon here, then we 
make planss again. I am think now, besst we 
sshould move from here. Palmer, I — mosstly we 
are theoreticianss ; and, excusse, you alsso, doctor. 
Jorgensson wass the production man. No Jorgen- 
sson, no — ah — ssoap!” 

Mentally, Ferrel agreed about the moving — and 
soon! But he could see Palmer’s point of view; to 
give up the fight was against the grain, somehow. 
And besides, once the blow-up happened, with the 
resultant damage to an unknown area, the pressure 
groups in Congress would be in, shouting for the 
final abolition of all atomic work; now they were 
reasonably quiet, only waiting an opportunity — or, 
more probably, at the moment were already seizing 
on the rumors spreading to turn this into their 
coup. If, by some streak of luck, Palmer could 
save the plant with no greater loss of life and 
property than already existed, their words would 
soon be forgotten, and the benefits from the prod- 
ucts of National would again outweigh all risks. 

“Just what will happen if it all goes off?” he 
asked. 

Jenkins shrugged, biting at his inner lip as he 
went over a sheaf of papers on the desk, covered 
with the scrawling symbols of atomics. “Any- 
body’s guess. Suppose three tons of the army's 
new explosive were to explode in a billionth — or 
at least, a millionth — of a second? Normally, you 
know, compared to atomics, that stuff burns like 
any fire, slowly and quietly, giving its gases plenty 
of time to get out of the way in an orderly fashion. 
Figure it one way, with this all going off together, 
and the stuff could drill a hole that’d split open 
the whole continent from Hudson Bay to the Gulf 
of Mexico, and leave a lovely sea where the Middle 
West is now. Figure it another, and it might 
only kill off everything within fifty miles of here. 
Somewhere in between is the chance we count on. 
This isn’t U-235, you know.” 

Doc winced. He’d been picturing the plant go- 
ing up in the air violently, with maybe a few 
buildings somewhere near it, but nothing like this. 
It had been purely a local affair to him, but this 
didn’t sound like one. No wonder Jenkins was in 
that state of suppressed jitters; it wasn’t too much 
imagination, but too much cold, hard knowledge 
that was worrying him. Ferrel looked at their 



NERVES 



79 



faces as they bent over the symbols once more, 
tracing out point by point their calculations in 
the hope of finding one overlooked loophole, then 
decided to leave them alone. 

The whole problem was hopeless without Jor- 
genson, it seemed, and Jorgenson was his respon- 
sibility; if the plant went, it was squarely on the 
senior physician’s shoulders. But there was no 
apparent solution. If it would help, he could cut 
it down to a direct path from brain to speaking or- 
gans, strap down the body and block off all nerves 
below the neck, using an artificial larynx instead 
of the normal breathing through vocal cords. 
But the indicator showed the futility of it; the 
orders could never get through from the brain with 
the amount of radioactive still present throwing 
them off track — even granting that the brain itself 
was not affected, which was doubtful. 

Fortunately for Jorgenson, the stuff was all 
finely dispersed around the head, with no concen- 
tration at any one place that was unquestionably 
destructive to his mind; but the good fortune 
was also the trouble, since it could not be removed 
by any means known to medical practice. Even 
so simple a thing as letting the man read the 
questions and spell out the answers by winking 
an eyelid as they pointed to the alphabet was 
hopeless. 

Nerves! Jorgenson had his blocked out, but 
Ferrel wondered if the rest of them weren’t in as 
bad a state. Probably, somewhere well within 
their grasp, there was a solution that was being 
held back because the nerves of everyone in the 
plant were blocked by fear and pressure that de- 
feated its own purpose. Jenkins, Palmer, Hokusai 
—under purely theoretical conditions, any one of 
them might spot the answer to the problem, but 
sheer necessity of finding it could be the thing 
that hid it. The same might be true with the 
problem of Jorgenson’s treatment. Yet, though he 
tried to relax and let his mind stray idly around 
the loose ends and seemingly disconnected knowl- 
edge he had, it returned incessantly to the neces- 
sity of doing something, and doing it now! 

Ferrel heard weary footsteps behind him and 
turned to see Palmer coming from the front en- 
trance. The man had no business walking into 
the surgery, but such minor rules had gone by 
the board hours before. 

“Jorgenson?” Palmer’s conversation began with 
the same old question in the usual tone, and he 
read the answer from Doc’s face with a look that 
indicated it was no news. “Hoke and that Jenkins 
kid still in there?” 

Doc nodded, and plodded behind him toward 
Jenkins' office; he was useless to them, but there 
was still the idea that in filling his mind with 
other things, some little factor he had overlooked 
might have a chance to come forth. Also, curiosity 



still worked on him, demanding to know what was 
happening. He Hopped into the third chair, and 
Palmer squatted down on the edge of the table. 

“Know a good spiritualist, Jenkins?” the man- 
ager asked. “Because if you do, I’m about ready 
to try calling back Kellar’s ghost. The Steinmetz 
of atomics — so he had to die before this Isotope R 
came up, and leave us without even a good guess 
at how long we’ve got to crack the problem. Hey, 
what’s the matter?" 

Jenkins’ face had tensed and his body straight- 
ened back tensely in the chair, but he shook his 
head, the corner of his mouth twitching wryly. 
“Nothing. Nerves, I guess. Hoke and I dug out 
some things that give an indication on how long 
this runs, though. We still don’t know exactly, 
but from observations out there and the general 
theory before, it looks like something between six 
and thirty hours left ; probably ten’s closer to being 
correct !” 

“Can’t be much longer. It’s driving the men 
back right now! Even the tanks can’t get in where 
they can do the most good, and we're using the 
shielding around No. 3 as a headquarters for the 
men; in another half hour, maybe they won’t be 
able to stay that near the thing. Radiation indi- 
cators won’t register any more, and it’s spitting 
all over the place, almost constantly. Heat’s ter- 
rific; it’s gone up to around three hundred centi- 
grade and sticks right there now, but that’s enough 
to warm up 3, even.” 

Doc looked up. “No. 3?” 

“Yeah. Nothing happened to that batch — it ran 
through and came out 1-713 right on schedule, 
hours ago.” Palmer reached for a cigarette, real- 
ized he had one in his mouth, and slammed the 
package back on the table. “Significant data. Doc ; 
if we get out of this, we'll figure out just what 
caused the change in No. 4 — if we get out! Any 
chance of making those variable factors work, 
Hoke?” 

Hoke shook his head, and again Jenkins an- 
swered from the notes. “Not a chance; sure, 
theoretically, at least, R should have a period 
varying between twelve and sixty hours before 
turning into Mahler’s Isotope, depending on what 
chains of reactions or subchains it goes through; 
they all look equally good, and probably are all 
going on in there now, depending on what’s around 
to soak up neutrons or let them roam, the con- 
centration and amount of R together, and even high 
or low temperatures that change their activity 
somewhat. It's one of the variables, no question 
about that.” 

“The sspitting iss prove that,” Hoke supple- 
mented. 

“Sure. But there’s too much of it together, 
and we can’t break it down fine enough to reach 
any safety point where it won’t toss energy around 
like rain. The minute one particle manages to 



80 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



make itself into Mahler’s, it’ll crash through with 
energy enough to blast the next over the hump 
and into the same thing instantly, and that passes 
it on to the next, at about light speed 1 If we 
could get it juggled around so some would go off 
first, other atoms a little later, and so on, fine — 
only we can’t do it unless we can be sure of 
isolating every blob bigger than a tenth of a gram 
from every other one I And if we start breaking 
it down into reasonably small pieces, we’re likely 
to have one decide on the short transformation 
subchain and go off at any time ; pure chance gave 
us a concentration to begin with that eliminated 
the shorter chains, but we can't break it down into 
small lots and those into smaller lots, and so on. 
Too much riski” 

Ferrel had known vaguely that there were such 
things as variables, but the theory behind them was 
too new and too complex for him; he’d learned 
what little he knew when the simpler radioactives 
proceeded normally from radium to lead, as an 
example, with a definite, fixed half life, instead of 
the super-heavy atoms they now used that could 
jump through several different paths, yet end up 
the same. It was over his head, and he started to 
get up and go back to Jorgenson. 

Palmer’s words stopped him. "I knew it, of 
course, but I hoped maybe I was wrong. Then — 
we evacuate ! No use fooling ourselves any longer. 
I’ll call the Governor and try to get him to clear 
the country around; Hoke, you can tell the men 
to get the hell out of here ! All we ever had was 
the counteracting isotope to hope on, and no chance 
of getting enough of that. There was no sense in 
making 1-231 in thousand-pound batches before. 
Well—” 

He reached for the phone, but Ferrel cut in. 
"What about the men in the wards? They’re 
loaded with the stuff, most of them with more than 
a gram apiece dispersed through them. They’re 
in the same class with the converter, maybe, but 
we can’t just pull out and leave them I” 

Silence hit them, to be broken by Jenkins’ 
hushed whisper. "My God ! What damned fools 
we are. 1-231 under discussion for hours, and I 
never thought of it. Now you two throw the 
connection in my face, and I still almost miss it!” 

"1-231? But there iss not enough. Maybe 
twenty-five pound, maybe less. Three and a half 
days to make more. The little we have would be 
no good, Dr. Jenkinss. We forget that already.” 
Hoke struck a match to a piece of paper, shook 
one drop of ink onto it, and watched it continue 
burning for a second before putting it out. “Sso. 
A drop of water for sstop a foresst fire. No.” 

"Wrong, Hoke. A drop to short a switch that’ll 
turn on the real stream — maybe. Look, Doc, I-231's 
an isotope that reacts atomically with R — we’ve 
checked on that already. It simply gets together 
with the stuff and the two break down into non- 



radioactive elements and a little heat, like a lot 
of other such atomic reactions; but it isn’t the 
violent kind. They simply swap parts in a friendly 
way and open up to simpler atoms that are stable. 
We have a few pounds on hand, can’t make enough 
in time to help with No. 4, but we do have enough 
to treat every man in the wards, including Jor- 
genson!” 

“How much heat?” Doc snapped out of his 
lethargy into the detailed thought of a good 
physician. “In atomics you may call it a little; 
but would it be small enough in the human body?” 

Hokusai and Palmer were practically riding the 
pencil as Jenkins figured. "Say five grams of the 
stuff in Jorgenson, to be on the safe side, less in 
the others. Time for reaction . . . hm-m-m. Here’s 
the total heat produced and the time taken by 
the reaction, probably, in the body. The stuff’s 
water-soluble in the chloride we have of it, so 
there’s no trouble dispersing it. What do you 
make of it, Doc?" 

"Fifteen to eighteen degrees temperature rise at 
a rough estimate. Uh I” 

“Too much! Jorgenson couldn’t stand ten de- 
grees right now!” Jenkins frowned down at his 
figures, tapping nervously with his hand. 

Doc shook his head. “Not too much! We can 
drop his whole body temperature first in the 
hypothermy bath down to eighty degrees, then let 
it rise to a hundred, if necessary, and still be safe. 
Thank the Lord, there’s equipment enough. If 
they’ll rip out the refrigerating units in the 
cafeteria and improvise baths, the volunteers out in 
the tent can start on the other men while we 
handle Jorgenson. At least that way we can get 
the men all out, even if we don’t save the plant.” 

Palmer stared at them in confusion before his 
face galvanized into resolution. “Refrigerating 
units — volunteers — tent? What — O. K., Doc, 
what do you want?” He reached for the telephone 
and began giving orders for the available 1-231 to 
be sent to the surgery, for men to rip out the 
cafeteria cooling equipment, and for such other 
things as Doc requested. Jenkins had already gone 
to instruct the medical staff in the field tent with- 
out asking how they’d gotten there, but was back 
in the surgery before Doc reached it with Palmer 
and Hokusai at his heels. 

“Blake’s taking over out there,” Jenkins an- 
nounced. "Says if you want Dodd, Meyers, Jones 
or Sue, they’re sleeping.” 

“No need. Get over there out of the way, if you 
must watch,” Ferrel ordered the two engineers, 
as he and Jenkins began attaching the freezing 
units and bath to the sling on the exciter. “Pre- 
pare his blood for it, Jenkins ; we’ll force it down 
as low as we can to be on the safe side. And 
we’ll have to keep tab on the temperature fall and 
regulate his heart and breathing to what it would 



NERVES 



81 




be normally in that condition; they're both out 
of his normal control, now.” 

“And pray," Jenkins added. He grabbed the 
small box out of the messenger’s hand before the 
man was fully inside the door and began preparing 
a solution, weighing out the whitish powder and 
measuring water carefully, but with the speed 
that was automatic to him under tension. “Doc, 
if this doesn’t work — if Jorgenson’s crazy or some- 
thing — you’ll have another case of insanity on your 
hands. One more false hope would finish me." 

“Not one more case; fourl We’re all in the 
same boat. Temperature’s falling nicely — I’m 
rushing it a little, but it’s safe enough. Down to 
ninety-six now.” The thermometer under Jorgen- 



son’s tongue was one intended for hypothermy 
work, capable of rapid response, instead of the 
normal fever thermometer. Slowly, with agoniz- 
ing reluctance, the little needle on the dial moved 
over, down to ninety, then on. Doc kept his eyes 
glued to it, slowing the pulse and breath to the 
proper speed. He lost track of the number of times 
he sent Palmer back out of the way, and finally 
gave up. 

Waiting, he wondered how those outside in the 
field hospital were doing? Still, they had ample 
time to arrange their makeshift cooling apparatus 
and treat the men in groups — ten hours probably; 
and hypothermy was a standard thing, now. Jor- 
genson was the only real rush case. Almost im- 



82 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



perceptibly to Doc, but speedily by normal 
standards, the temperature continued to fall. Fi- 
nally it rached seventy-eight. 

"Ready, Jenkins, make the injection. That 
enough?” 

“No. I figure it’s almost enough, but we’ll have 
to go slow to balance out properly. Too much of 
this stuff would be almost as bad as the other. 
Gauge going up, Doc?” 

It was, much more rapidly than Ferrel liked. 
As the injection coursed through the blood vessels 
and dispersed out to the fine deposits of radio- 
active, the needle began climbing past eighty, to 
ninety, and up. It stopped at ninety-four and 
slowly began falling as the cooling bath absorbed 
heat from the cells of the body. The radioactivity 
meter still registered the presence of Isotope R, 
though much more faintly. 

The next shot was small, and a smaller one fol- 
lowed. “Almost,” Ferrel commented. “Next one 
should about do the trick.” 

Using partial injections, there had been need 
for less drop in temperature than they had given 
Jorgenson, but there was small loss to that. Fi- 
nally, when the last minute bit of the 1-231 solution 
had entered the man’s veins and done its work, 
Doc nodded. “No sign of activity left. He’s up 
to ninety-five, now that I’ve cut off the refrigera- 
tion, and he’ll pick up the little extra temperature 
in a hurry. By the time we can counteract the 
curare, he’ll be ready. That’ll take about fifteen 
minutes. Palmer.” 

The manager nodded, watching them disman- 
tling the hypothermy equipment and going 
through the routine of canceling out the curare. 
It was always a slower job than treatment with 
the drug, but part of the work had been done 
already by the normal body processes, and the 
rest was a simple, standard procedure. Fortu- 
nately, the neo-heroin would be nearly worn off, 
or that would have been a longer and much 
harder problem to eliminate. 

“Telephone for Mr. Palmer. Calling Mr. Palmer. 
Send Mr. Palmer to the telephone.” The operator’s 
words lacked the usual artificial exactness, and 
were only a nervous sing-song. It was getting her, 
and she wasn’t bothered by excess imagination, 
normally. “Mr. Palmer is wanted on the tele- 
phone.” 

“Palmer.” The manager picked up an instru- 
ment at hand, not equipped with vision, and there 
was no indication of the caller. But Ferrel could 
see what little hope had appeared at the prospect 
of Jorgenson’s revival disappearing. “Check! 
Move out of there, and prepare to evacuate, but 
keep quiet about that until you hear further or- 
ders! Tell the men Jorgenson’s about out of it, 
so they won’t lack for something to talk about.” 

He swung back to them. “No use, Doc, I’m 
afraid. We’re already too late. The stuff’s stepped 



it up again, and they’re having to move out of 
No. 3 now. I’ll wait on Jorgenson, but even if he’s 
all right and knows the answer, we can’t get in to 
use it!” 

VI. 

"Healing’s going to be a long, slow process, but 
they should at least grow back better than silver 
ribs; never take a pretty X-ray photo, though.” 
Doc held the instrument in his hand, staring down 
at the flap opened in Jorgenson’s chest, and his 
shoulders came up in a faint shrug. The little 
platinum filaments had been removed from around 
the nerves to heart and lungs, and the man’s nor- 
mal impulses were operating again, less steadily 
than under the exciter, but with no danger signals. 
“Well, it won’t much matter if he’s still sane.” 

Jenkins watched him begin stitching the flap 
back, his eyes centered over the table out toward 
the converter. “Doc, he’s got to be sane ! If Hoke 
and Palmer find it’s what it sounds like out there, 
we’ll have to count on Jorgenson. There’s an an- 
swer somewhere; has to be! But we won’t find 
it without him.” 

"Hm-m-m. Seems to me you’ve been having 
ideas yourself, son. Vou’ve been right so far, and 
if Jorgenson’s out — ” He shut off the stitcher, 
finished the dressings, and flopped down on a 
bench, knowing that all they could do was wait 
for the drugs to work on Jorgenson and bring 
him around. Now that he relaxed the control over 
himself, exhaustion hit down with full force; his 
fingers were uncertain as he pulled off the gloves. 
“Anyhow, we’ll know in another five minutes or 
so.” 

“And Heaven help us, Doc, if it’s up to me. I've 
always had a flair for atomic theory; I grew up on 
it. But he’s the production man who’s been work- 
ing at it week in and week out, and it’s his process, 
to boot. . . . There they are now! All right for 
them to come back here?” 

But Hokusai and Palmer were waiting for no 
permission. At the moment, Jorgenson was the 
nerve center of the plant, drawing them back, 
and they stalked over to stare down at him, then 
sat where they could be sure of missing no sign of 
returning consciousness. Palmer picked up the 
conversation where he’d dropped it, addressing his 
remarks to both Hokusai and Jenkins. 

“Damn that Link-Stevens postulate ! Time after 
time it fails, until you figure there’s nothing to 
it; then, this! It’s black magic, not science, and 
if I get out, I’ll find some fool with more courage 
than sense to discover why. Hoke, are you posi- 
tive it’s the theta chain? There isn’t one chance 
in ten thousand of that happening, you know; it’s 
unstable, hard to stop, tends to revert to the sim- 
pler ones at the first chance.” 

Hokusai spread his hands, lifted one heavy eye- 
lid at Jenkins questioningly, then nodded. The 



NERVES 



boy’s voice was dull, almost uninterested. "That’s 
what I thought it had to be, Palmer. None of the 
others throws off that much energy at this stage, 
the way you described conditions out there. Prob- 
ably the last thing we tried to quench set it up 
in that pattern, and it’s in a concentration just 
right to keep it going. We figured ten hours was 
the best chance, so it had to pick the six-hour short 
chain.” 

“Yeah.” Palmer was pacing up and down nerv- 
ously again, his eyes swinging toward Jorgenson 
from whatever direction he moved. “And in six 
hours, maybe all the population around here can 
be evacuated, maybe not, but we’ll thave to try it. 
Doc, I can’t even wait for Jorgenson now! I’ve got 
to get the Governor started at once I” 

"They’ve been known to practice lynch law, even 
in recent years,” Ferrel reminded him grimly. He’d 
seen the result of one such case of mob violence 
when he was practicing privately, and he knew 
that people remain pretty much the same year after 
year; they’d move, but first they’d demand a 
sacrifice. "Better get the men out of here first, 
Palmer, and my advice is to get yourself a good 
long distance off ; I heard some of the trouble at 
the gate, but that won’t be anything compared to 
what an evacuation order will do.” 

Palmer grunted. "Doc, you might not believe 
it, but I don’t give a continental about what hap- 
pens to me or the plant right now.” 

"Or the men? Put a mob in here, hunting your 
blood, and the men will be on your side, because 
they know it wasn’t your fault, and they’ve seen 
you out there taking chances yourself. That mob 
won’t be too choosy about its targets, either, once 
its gets worked up, and you'll have a nice vicious 
brawl all over the place. Besides, Jorgenson’s 
practically ready.” 

A few more minutes would make no difference 
in the evacuation, and Doc had no desire to think 
of his partially crippled wife going through the 
hell evacuation would be; she’d probably refuse, 
until he returned. His eyes fell on the box 
Jenkins was playing with nervously, and he stalled 
for time. “I thought you said it was risky to 
break the stuff down into small particles, Jenkins. 
But that box contains the stuff in various sizes, in- 
cluding one big piece we scraped out, along with 
the contaminated instruments. Why hasn’t it ex- 
ploded?” 

Jenkins’ hand jerked up from it as if burned, 
and he backed away a step before checking him- 
self. Then he was across the room toward the 
1-231 and back, pouring the white powder over 
everything in the box in a jerky frenzy. Hokusai’s 
eyes had snapped fully open, and he was slopping 
water in to fill up the remaining space and keep 
the 1-231 in contact with everything else. Almost 
at once, in spite of the low relative energy release, 
it sent up a white cloud of steam faster than the air 

AST— 6K 



83 

conditioner could clear the room; but that soon 
faded down and disappeared. 

Hokusai wiped his forehead slowly. "The ssuits 
— armor of the men?” 

“Sent ’em back to the converter and had them 
dumped into the stuff to be safe long ago,” Jenkins 
answered. “But I forgot the box, like a fool. Ugh I 
Either blind chance saved us or else the stuff spit 
out was all one kind, some reasonably long chain. 
I don’t know nor care right — ” 

“S’ot! Nnnuh. . . . Whmah nahh?” 
“Jorgenson!” They swung from the end of the 
room like one man, but Jenkins was the first to 
reach the table. Jorgenson's eyes were open and 
rolling in a semiorderly manner, his hands moving 
sluggishly. The boy hovered over his face, his 
own practically glowing with the intensity behind 
it. “Jorgenson, can you understand what I’m 
saying?” 

“Uh.” The eyes ceased moving and centered on 
Jenkins. One hand came up to his throat, clutch- 
ing at it, and he tried unsuccessfully to lift him- 
self with the other, but the aftereffects of what 
he’d been through seemed to have left him in a 
state of partial paralysis. 

Ferrel had hardly dared hope that the man could 
be rational, and his relief was tinged with doubt. 
He pushed Palmer back, and shook his head. "No, 
stay back. Let the boy handle it ; he knows enough 
not to shock the man now, and you don't. This 
can’t be rushed too much.” 

"I — uh. . . . Young Jenkins? Whasha doin’ 
here? Tell y’ur dad to ge’ busy ou’ there!” Some- 
where in Jorgenson's huge frame, an untapped 
reserve of energy and will sprang up, and he 
forced himself into a sitting position, his eyes on 
Jenkins, his hand still catching at the reluctant 
throat that refused to co-operate. His words were 
blurry and uncertain, but sheer determination 
overcame the obstacles and made the words un- 
derstandable. 

“Dad’s dead now, Jorgenson. Now — ” 

" 'Sright. ’N' you’re grown up — 'bout twelve 
years old, y’ were. . . . The plant!” 

“Easy, Jorgenson.” Jenkins’ own voice man- 
aged to sound casual, though his hands under the 
table were white where they clenched together. 
"Listen, and don’t try to say anything until I finish. 
The plant’s still all right, but we’ve got to have 
your help. Here’s what happened.” 

Ferrel could make little sense of the cryptic 
sentences that followed, though he gathered that 
they were some form of engineering shorthand ; 
apparently, from Hokusai’s approving nod, they 
summed up the situation briefly but fully, and 
Jorgenson sat rigidly still until it was finished, his 
eyes fastened on the boy. 

“Hellova mess! Gotta think . . . yuh tried — ” 
He made an attempt to lower himself back, and 



84 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Jenkins assisted him, hanging on feverishly to 
each awkward, uncertain change of expression on 
the man’s face. “Uh ... da’ sroatl Yuh . . . uh 
. . . urrgh!” 

“Got it?” 

“Uh!” The tone was affirmative, unquestionably, 
but the clutching hands around his neck told their 
own story. The temporary burst of energy he’d 
forced was exhausted, and he couldn’t get through 
with it. He lay there, breathing heavily and 
struggling, then relaxed after a few more half- 
whispered words, none intelligently articulated. 

Palmer clutched at Ferrel’s sleeve. “Doc, isn’t 
there anything you can do?” 

“Try.” He metered out a minute quantity of 
drug doubtfully, felt Jorgenson’s pulse, and de- 
cided on half that amount. “Not much hope, 
though ; that man’s been through hell, and it wasn’t 
good for him to be forced around in the first place. 
Carry it too far, and he’ll be delirious if he does 
talk. Anyway, I suspect it’s partly his speech 
centers as well as the throat.” 

But Jorgenson began a slight rally almost in- 
stantly, trying again, then apparently drawing 
himself together for a final attempt. When they 
came, the words spilled out harshly in forced clear- 
ness, but without inflection. 

“First . . . variable . . . at . . . twelve . . . water 
. . . stop.” His eyes, centered on Jenkins, closed, 
and he relaxed again, this time no longer fighting 
off the inevitable unconsciousness. 

Hokusai, Palmer, and Jenkins were Btaring back 
and forth at one another questioningly. The lit- 
tle Japanese shook his head negatively at first, 
frowned, and repeated it, to be imitated almost 
exactly by the manager. “Delirious ravings!” 
“The great white hope Jorgenson!" Jenkins’ 
shoulders drooped and the blood drained from his 
face, leaving it ghastly with fatigue and despair. 
“Oh, damn it. Doc, stop staring at me! I can’t 
pull a miracle out of a hat!” 

Doc hadn’t realized that he was staring, but 
he made no effort to change it. "Maybe not, but 
you happen to have the most active imagination 
here, when you stop abusing it to scare yourself. 
Well, you’re on the spot now, and I’m still giving 
odds on you. Want to bet, Hoke?” 

It was an utterly stupid thing, and Doc knew 
it; but somewhere during the long hours to- 
gether, he’d picked up a queer respect for the 
boy and a dependence on the nervousness that 
wasn’t fear but closer akin to the reaction of a 
rear-running thoroughbred on the home stretch. 
Hoke was too slow and methodical, and Palmer 
had been too concerned with outside worries to 
give anywhere nearly full attention to the single 
most urgent phase of the problem; that left only 
Jenkins, hampered by his lack of self-confidence. 

Hoke gave no sign that he caught the mean- 
ing of Doc’s heavy wink, but he lifted his eye- 



brows faintly. “No, I think I am not bet. Dr. 
Jenkins, I am to be command!” 

Palmer looked briefly at the boy, whose face 
mirrored incredulous confusion, but he had neither 
Ferrel’s ignorance of atomic technique nor Hoku- 
sai’s fatalism. With a final glance at the uncon- 
scious Jorgenson, he started across the room to- 
ward the phone. “You men play, if you like. I’m 
starting evacuation immediately I” 

“Wait!” Jenkins was shaking himself, physi- 
cally as well as mentally. “Hold it, Palmer! 
Thanks, Doc. You knocked me out of the rut, 
and bounced my memory back to something I 
picked up somewhere; I think it’s the answer! 
It has to work — nothing else can at this stage of 
the game!" 

“Give me the Governor, operator." Palmer had 
heard, but he went on with the phone call. “This 
is no time to play crazy hunches until after we 
get the people out, kid. I’ll admit you’re a darned 
clever amateur, but you’re no atomicist!" 

“And if we get the men out, it’s too late — 
there'll be no one left in here to do the work!” 
Jenkins’ hand snapped out and jerked the receiver 
of the plug-in telephone from Palmer’s hand. 
“Cancel the call, operator; it won’t be necessary. 
Palmer, you’ve got to listen to me; you can't 
clear the whole middle of the continent, and you 
can’t depend on the explosion to limit itself to 
less ground. It’s a gamble, but you’re risking 
fifty million people against a mere hundred thou- 
sand. Give me a chance!” 

“I’ll give you exactly one minute to convince 
me, Jenkins, and it had better be good! Maybe 
the blow-up won’t hit beyond the fifty-mile limit!" 

“Maybe. And I can’t explain in a minute.” The 
boy scowled tensely. “O. K., you’ve been belly- 
aching about a man named Kellar being dead. If 
he were here, would you take a chance on him? 
Or on a man who’d worked under him on every- 
thing he tried?" 

“Absolutely, but you’re not Kellar. And I hap- 
pen to know he was a lone wolf ; didn’t hire out- 
side engineers after Jorgenson had a squabble with 
him and came here." Palmer reached for the 
phone. “It won’t wash, Jenkins.” 

Jenkins’ hand clamped down on the instrument, 
jerking it out of reach. “I wasn’t outside help, 
Palmer. When Jorgenson was afraid to run one 
of the things off and quit, I was twelve; three 
years later, things got too tight for him to handle 
alone, but he decided he might as well keep it 
in the family, so he started me in. I’m Kellar’s 
stepson!” 

Pieces clicked together in Doc’s head then, and 
he kicked himself mentally for not having seen 
the obvious before. “That why Jorgenson knew 
you. then? I thought that was funny. It checks, 
Palmer.” 

For a split second, the manager hesitated un- 



NERVES 



85 



certainly. Then he shrugged and gave in. "O. K., 
I’m a fool to trust you, Jenkins, but it’s too late 
for anything else, I guess. I never forgot that 
I was gambling the locality against half the con- 
tinent. What do you want?” 

"Men — construction men, mostly, and a few vol- 
unteers for dirty work. I want all the blowers, 
exhaust equipment, tubing, booster blowers, and 
everything ripped from the other three converters 
and connected as close to No. 4 as you can get. 
Put them up some way so they can be shoved in 
over the stuff by crane — I don’t care how; the 
shop men will know better than I do. You’ve 
got sort of a river running off behind the plant; 
get everyone within a few miles of it out of there, 
and connect the blower outlets down to it. Where 
does it end, anyway — some kind of a swamp, or 
morass?” 

"About ten miles farther down, yes; we didn’t 
bother keeping the drainage system going, since 
the land meant nothing to us, and the swamps 
made as good a dumping ground as anything else.” 
When the plant had first used the little river as 
an outlet for their waste products, there’d been 
so much trouble that National had been forced 
to take over all adjacent land and quiet the own- 
ers’ fears of the atomic activity in cold cash. Since 
then, it had gone to weeds and rabbits, mostly. 
“Everyone within a few miles is out, anyway, 
except a few fishers or tramps that don’t know 
we use it. I’ll have militia sent in to scare them 
out.” 

"Good. Ideal, in fact, since the swamps will 
hold stuff in there where the current’s slow 
longer. Now, what about that superthermite stuff 
you were producing last year. Any around?” 

"Not in the plant. But we’ve got tons of it at 
the warehouse, still waiting for the army’s requi- 
sition. That's pretty hot stuff to handle, though. 
Know much about it?” 

"Enough to know it’s what I want.” Jenkins 
indicated the copy of the Weekly Ray still lying 
where he’d dropped it, and Doc remembered skim- 
ming through the nontechnical part of the descrip- 
tion. It was made up of two . superheavy atoms, 
kept separate. By itself, neither was particularly 



important or active, but together they reacted 
with each other atomically to release a tremendous 
amount of raw heat and comparatively little un- 
wanted radiation. “Goes up around twenty thou- 
sand centigrade, doesn’t it? How’s it stored?” 

“In ten-pound bombs that have a fragile parti- 
tion; it breaks with shock, starting the action. 
Hoke can explain it — it’s his baby.” Palmer 
reached for the phone. “Anything else? Then, 
get out and get busy! The men will be ready 
for you when you get there! I’ll be out myself 
as soon as I can put through your orders.” 

Doc watched them go out, to be followed in 
short order by the manager, and was alone in the 
Infirmary with Jorgenson and his thoughts. They 
weren’t pleasant; he was both too far outside the 
inner circle to know what was going on and too 
much mixed up in it not to know the dangers. 
Now he could have used some work of any nature 
to take his mind off useless speculations, but aside 
from a needless check of the foreman’s condition, 
there was nothing for him to do. 

He wriggled down in the leather chair, making 
the mistake of trying to force sleep, while his 
mind chased out after the sounds that came in 
from outside. There were the drones of crane 
and tank motors coming to life, the shouts of hur- 
ried orders, and above all, the jarring rhythm of 
pneumatic hammers on metal, each sound sug- 
gesting some possibility to him without adding 
to his knowledge. The “Decameron” was boring, 
the whiskey tasted raw and rancid, and solitaire 
wasn’t worth the trouble of cheating. 

Finally, he gave up and turned out to the field 
hospital tent. Jorgenson would be better off out 
there, under the care of the staff from Mayo’s, 
and perhaps he could make himself useful. As 
he passed through the rear entrance, he heard the 
sound of a number of helicopters coming over 
with heavy loads, and looked up as they began 
settling over the edge of the buildings. From 
somewhere, a group of men came running forward, 
and disappeared in the direction of the freighters. 
He wondered whether any of those men would be 
forced back into the stuff out there to return 
filled with radioactive; though it didn’t matter 




ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



so much, now that the isotope could be eliminated 
without surgery. 

Blake met him at the entrance of the field tent, 
obviously well satisfied with his duty of bossing 
and instructing the others. “Scram, Doc. You 
aren’t necessary here, and you need some rest. 
Don’t want you added to the casualties. What’s 
the latest dope from the pow-wow front?" 

“Jorgenson didn’t come through, but the kid 
had an idea, and they're out there working on it.’’ 
Doc tried to sound more hopeful than he felt. 
“I was thinking you might as well bring Jorgen- 
son in here; he’s still unconscious, but there 
doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about. 
Where’s Brown? She'll probably want to know 
what’s up, if she isn’t asleep.” 

“Asleep when the kid isn’t? Uh-huh. Mother 
complex, has to worry about him.” Blake grinned. 
“She got a look at him running out with Hoke 
tagging at his heels, and hiked out after him, so 
she probably knows everything now. Wish Anne’d 
chase me that way, just once — Jenkins, the won- 
der boy! Well, it’s out of my line; I don’t intend 
to start worrying until they pass out the order. 
O. K., Doc, I’ll have Jorgenson out here in a couple 
of minutes, so you grab yourself a cot and get 
some shut-eye." 

Doc grunted, looking curiously at the refine- 
ments and well-equipped interior of the field tent. 
“I’ve already prescribed that, Blake, but the pa- 
tient can’t seem to take it. I think I'll hunt up 
Brown, so give me a call over the public speaker 
if anything turns up.” 

He headed toward the center of action, knowing 
that he’d been wanting to do it all along, but hadn’t 
been sure of not being a nuisance. Well, if Brown 
could look on, there was no reason why he couldn’t. 
He passed the machine shop, noting the excited 
flurry of activity going on, and went past No. 2, 
where other men were busily ripping out long 
sections of big piping and various other devices. 
There was a rope fence barring his way, well be- 
yond No. 3, and he followed along the edge, look- 
ing for Palmer or Brown. 

She saw him first. “Hi, Dr. Ferrel, over here 
in the truck. I thought you’d be coming soon. 
From up here we can get a look over the heads 
of all these other people, and we won’t be tramped 
on.” She stuck down a hand to help him up, 
smiled faintly as he disregarded it and mounted 
more briskly than his muscles wanted to. He 
wasn’t so old that a girl had to help him yet. 

“Know what’s going on?” he asked, sinking 
down onto the plank across the truck body, facing 
out across the men below toward the converter. 
There seemed to be a dozen different centers of 
activity, all crossing each other in complete con- 
fusion, and the general pattern was meaningless. 

“No more than you do. I haven’t seen my hus- 



band, though Mr. Palmer took time enough to 
chase me here out of the way.” 

Doc centered his attention on the 'copters, un- 
loading, rising, and coming in with more loads, 
and he guessed that those boxes must contain the 
little thermodyne bombs. It was the one thing 
he could understand, and consequently the least 
interesting. Other men were assembling the big 
sections of piping he’d seen before, connecting 
them up in almost endless order, while some of 
the tanks hooked on and snaked them off in the 
direction of the small river that ran off beyond 
the plant. 

“Those must be the exhaust blowers, I guess,” 
he told Brown, pointing them out. “Though I 
don't know what any of the rest of the stuff hooked 
on is.” 

“I know — I’ve been inside the plant Bob's father 
had.” She lifted an inquiring eyebrow at him, 
went on as he nodded. “The pipes are for exhaust 
gases, all right, and those big square things are 
the motors and fans — they put in one at each five 
hundred feet or less of piping. The things they’re 
wrapping around the pipe must be the heaters to 
keep the gases hot. Are they going to try to 
suck all that out?" 

Doc didn’t know, though it was the only thing 
he could see. But he wondered how they’d get 
around the problem of moving in close enough 
to do any good. “I heard your husband order 
some thermodyne bombs, so they’ll probably try 
to gassify the magma; then they're pumping it 
down the river.” 

As he spoke, there was a flurry of motion at 
one side, and his eyes swung over instantly, to 
see one of the cranes laboring with a long frame- 
work stuck from its front, holding up a section 
of pipe with a nozzle on the end. It tilted pre- 
cariously, even though heavy bags were piled 
everywhere to add weight, but an inch at a time 
it lifted its load, and began forcing its way for- 
ward, carrying the nozzle out in front and rather 
high. 

Below the main exhaust pipe was another smaller 
one. As it drew near the outskirts of the danger 
zone, a small object ejaculated from the little 
pipe, hit the ground, and was a sudden blazing 
inferno of glaring blue-white light, far brighter 
than it seemed, judging by the effect on the eyes. 
Doc shielded his, just as someone below put some- 
thing into his hands. 

“Put ’em on. Palmer says the light’s actinic.” 

He heard Brown fussing beside him, then his 
vision cleared, and he looked back through the 
goggles again to see a glowing cloud spring up 
from the magma, spread out near the ground, nar- 
rowing down higher up, until it sucked into the 
nozzle above, and disappeared. Another bomb 
slid from the tube, and erupted with blazing heat. 
A sideways glance showed another crane being 



NERVES 



87 



fitted, and a group of men near it wrapping what 
might have been oiled rags around the small 
bombs; probably no tubing fitted them exactly, 
and they were padding them so pressure could 
blow them forward and out. Three more dropped 
from the tube, one at a time, and the fans roared 
and groaned, pulling the cloud that rose into the 
pipe and feeding it down toward the river. 

Then the crane inched back out carefully as 
men uncoupled its piping from the main line, and 
a second went in to replace it. The heat gener- 
ated must be too great for the machine to stand 
steadily without the pipe fusing, Doc decided; 
though they couldn’t have kept a man inside the 
heavily armored cab for any length of time, if 
the metal had been impervious. Now another 
crane was ready, and went in from another place; 
it settled down to a routine of ingoing and out- 
coming cranes, and men feeding materials in, 
coupling and uncoupling the pipes and replacing 
the others who came from the cabs. Doc began 
to feel like a man at a tennis match, watching the 
ball without knowing the rules. 

Brown must have had the same idea, for she 
caught Ferrel's arm and indicated a little leather 
case that came from her handbag. "Doc, do you 
play chess? We might as well fill our time with 
that as sitting here on edge, just watching. It’s 
supposed to be good for nerves.” 

He seized on it gratefully, without explaining 
that he’d been city champion three years running ; 
he’d take it easy, watch her game, handicap him- 
self just enough to make it interesting by the 
deliberate loss of a rook, bishop, or knight, as 
was needed to even the odds — Suppose they got 
all the magma out and into the river; how did 
that solve the problem? It removed it from the 
plant, but far less than the fifty-mile minimum 
danger limit. 

“Check,” Brown announced. He castled, and 
looked up at the half-dozen cranes that were now 
operating. “Check ! Checkmate !” 

He looked back again hastily, then, to see her 
queen guarding all possible moves, a bishop check- 
ing him. Then his eye followed down toward 
her end. “Umm. Did you know you’ve been in 
check for the last half-dozen moves? Because I 
didn’t." 

She frowned, shook her head, and began setting 
the men up again. Doc moved out the queen’s 
pawn, looked out at the workers, and then brought 
out the king’s bishop, to see her take it with her 
king’s pawn. He hadn't watched her move it out, 
and had counted on her queen’s to block his. 
Things would require more careful watching on 
this little portable set. The men were moving 
steadily and there was a growing clear space, but 
as they went forward, the violent action of the 
thermodyne had pitted the ground, carefully as it 



had been used, and going became more uncertain. 
Time was slipping by rapidly now. 

“Checkmate!” He found himself in a hole, 
started to nod; but she caught herself this time. 
"Sorry, I’ve been playing my king for a queen. 
Doctor, let's see if we can play at least one game 
right.” 

Before it was half finished, it became obvious 
that they couldn’t. Neither had chess very much 
on the mind, and the pawns and men did fearful 
and wonderful things, while the knights were as 
likely to jump six squares as their normal L. They 
gave it up, just as one of the cranes lost its pre- 
carious balance and toppled forward, dropping the 
long extended pipe into the bubbling mass below. 
Tanks were in instantly, hitching on and tugging 
backward until it came down with a thump as 
the pipe fused, releasing the extreme forward 
load. It backed out on its own power, while an- 
other went in. The driver, by sheer good luck, 
hobbled from the cab, waving an armored hand 
to indicate he was all right. Things settled back 
to an excited routine again that seemed to go on 
endlessly, though seconds were dropping off too 
rapidly, turning into minutes that threatened to 
be hours far too soon. 

“Uh!” Brown had been staring for some time, 
but her little feet suddenly came down with a 
bang and she straightened up, her hand to her 
mouth. “Doctor, I just thought; it won’t do any 
good — all this!” 

“Why?” She couldn’t know anything; but he 
felt the faint hopes he had go downward sharply. 
His nerves were dulled, but still ready to jump 
at the slightest warning. 

“The stuff they were making was a superheavy 
— it’ll sink as soon as it hits the water, and all 
pile up right there! It won’t float down river!” 

Obvious, Ferrel thought; too obvious. Maybe 
that was why the engineers hadn’t thought of it. 
He started from the plank, just as Palmer stepped 
up, but the manager’s hand on his shoulder forced 
him back. 

“Easy, Doc, it’s O. K. Umm, so they teach 
women some science nowadays, eh, Mrs. Jenkins 
. . . Sue . . . Dr. Brown, whatever your name is? 
Don’t worry about it, though — the old principle 
of Brownian movement will keep any colloid sus- 
pended, if it’s fine enough to be a real colloid. 
We’re sucking it out and keeping it pretty hot 
until it reaches the water — then it cools off so 
fast it hasn’t time to collect in particles big enough 
to sink. Some of the dust that floats around in 
the air is heavier than water, too. I’m joining 
the bystanders, if you don’t mind; the men have 
everything under control, and I can see better here 
than I could down there, if anything does come 
up.” 

Doc’s momentary despair reacted to leave him 
feeling more sure of things than was justified. 



88 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



He pushed over on the plank, making room for 
Palmer to drop down beside him. “What’s to keep 
it from blowing up anyway, Palmer?” 

“Nothing 1 Got a match?" He sucked in on 
the cigarette heavily, relaxing as much as he 
could. “No use trying to fool you. Doc, at this 
stage of the game. We’re gambling, and I’d say 
the odds are even; Jenkins thinks they’re ninety 
to ten in his favor, but he has to think so. What 
we’re hoping is that by lifting it out in a gas, 
thus breaking it down at once from full concen- 
tration to the finest possible form, and letting it 
settle in the water in colloidal particles, there 
won’t be a concentration at any one place sufficient 
to set it all off at once. The big problem is making 
sure we get every bit of it cleaned out here, or 
there may be enough left to take care of us and 
the nearby city I At least, since the last change, 
it’s stopped spitting, so all the men have to worry 
about is burn!" 

“How much damage, even if it doesn’t go off 
all at once?” 

“Possibly none. If you can keep it burning 
slowly, a million tons of dynamite wouldn’t be 
any worse than the same amount of wood, but a 
stick going off at once will kill you. Why the 
dickens didn’t Jenkins tell me he wanted to go into 
atomics? We could have fixed all that — it’s hard 
enough to get good men as it is!” 

Brown perked up, forgetting the whole trouble 
beyond them, and went into the story with en- 
thusiasm, while Ferrel only partly listened. He 
could see the spot of magma growing steadily 
smaller, but the watch on his wrist went on tick- 
ing off minutes remorselessly, and the time was 
growing limited. He hadn’t realized before how 
long he’d been sitting there. Now three of the 
crane nozzles were almost touching, and around 
them stretched the burned-out ground, with no 
sign of converter, masonry, or anything else; the 
heat from the thermodyne had gassified every- 
thing, indiscriminately. 

“Palmer!” The portable ultrawave set around 
the manager’s neck came to life suddenly. “Hey, 
Palmer, these blowers are about shot; the pipe's 
pitting already. We’ve been doing everything 
we can to replace them, but that stuff eats faster 
than we can fix. Can’t hold up more'n fifteen 
minutes more." 

“Check, Briggs. Keep ’em going the best you 
can.” Palmer flipped a switch and looked out to- 
ward the tank standing by behind the cranes. 
“Jenkins, you get that?” 

"Yeah. Surprised they held out this long. How 
much time till deadline?" The boy’s voice was 
completely toneless, neither hope nor nerves show- 
ing up, only the complete weariness of a man al- 
most at his limit. 

Palmer looked and whistled. "Twelve minutes. 



according to the minimum estimate Hoke made! 
How much left?” 

“We’re just burning around now, trying to make 
sure there’s no pocket left; I hope we’ve got the 
whole works, but I’m not promising. Might as 
well send out all the 1-231 you have and we’ll 
boil it down the pipes to clear out any deposits 
on them. All the old treads and parts that con- 
tacted the R gone into the pile?” 

“You melted the last, and your cranes haven’t 
touched the stuff directly. Nice pile of money’s 
gone down that pipe — converter, machinery, every- 
thing!” 

Jenkins made a sound that was expressive of his 
worry about that. “I’m coming in now and start- 
ing the clearing of the pipe. What’ve you been 
paying insurance for?” 

“At a lovely rate, too! O. K., come on in, kid; 
and if you’re interested, you can start sticking 
A. E. after the M. D., any time you want. Your 
wife’s been giving me your qualifications, and 
I think you’ve passed the final test, so you're now 
an atomic engineer, duly graduated from Na- 
tional f” 

Brown’s breath caught, and her eyes seemed to 
glow, even through the goggles, but Jenkins’ voice 
was flat. “O. K., I expected you to give me one 
if we don’t blow up. But you’ll have to see Dr. 
Ferrel about it; he’s got a contract with me for 
medical practice. Be there shortly.” 

Nineteen of the estimated twelve minutes had 
ticked by when he climbed up beside them, mop- 
ping off some of the sweat that covered him, and 
Palmer was hugging the watch. More minutes 
ticked off slowly, while the last sound faded out 
in the plant, and the men stood around, staring 
down toward the river or at the hole that had 
been No. 4. Silence. Jenkins stirred, and grunted. 

“Palmer, I know where I got the idea, now. 
Jorgenson was trying to remind me of it. instead 
of raving, only I didn’t get it, at least consciously. 
It was one of dad’s, the one he told Jorgenson 
was a last resort, in case the thing they broke 
up about went haywire. It was the first variable 
dad tried. I was twelve, and he insisted water 
would break it up into all its chains and kill the 
danger. Only dad didn’t really expect it to work !” 

Palmer didn’t look up from the watch, but he 
caught his breath and swore. “Fine time to tell 
me that!” 

“He didn't have your isotopes to heat it bp with, 
either,” Jenkins answered mildly. “Suppose you 
look up from that watch of yours for a minute, 
down the river.” 

As Doc raised his eyes, he was aware suddenly 
of a roar from the men. Over to the south, stretch- 
ing out in a huge mass, was a cloud of steam that 
spread upward and out as he watched, and the 
beginnings of a mighty hissing sound came in. 
Then Palmer was hugging Jenkins and yelling 



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90 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



until Brown could pry him away and replace him. 

“Ten miles or more of river, plus the swamps, 
Doc!” Palmer was shouting in Ferrel’s ear. “All 
that dispersion, while it cooks slowly from now 
until the last chain is finished, atom by atom ! The 
theta chain broke, unstable, and now there’s every- 
thing there, too scattered to set itself off! It’ll 
cook the river bed up and dry it, but that’s all!” 

Doc was still dazed, unsure of how to take the 
relief. He wanted to lie down and cry or to stand 
up with the men and shout his head off. Instead, 
he sat loosely, gazing at the cloud. "So I lose 
the best assistant I ever had! Jenkins, I won’t 
hold you ; you’re free for whatever Palmer wants.” 

"Hoke wants him to work on R — he’s got the 
stuff for his bomb now !” Palmer was clapping his 
hands together slowly, like an excited child watch- 
ing a steam shovel. “Heck, Doc, pick out any- 
one you want until your own boy gets out next 
year. You wanted a chance to work him in here, 
now you’ve got it. Right now I’ll give you any- 
thing you want.” 

"You might see what you can do about hos- 
pitalizing the injured and fixing things up with 
the men in the tent behind the Infirmary. And 
I think I'll take Brown in Jenkins’ place, with 
the right to grab him in an emergency, until that 
year's up.” 

“Done.” Palmer slapped the boy's back, stop- 



ping the protest, while Brown winked at him. 
“Your wife likes working, kid; she told me that 
herself. Besides, a lot of the women work here 
where they can keep an eye on their men; my 
own wife does, usually. Doc, take these two kids 
and head for home, where I’m going myself. Don’t 
come back until you get good and ready, and 
don’t let them start fighting about it!” 

Doc pulled himself from the truck and started 
off with Brown and Jenkins following, through 
the yelling, relief-crazed men. The three were 
too thoroughly worn out for any exhibition them- 
selves, but they could feel it. Happy ending! 
Jenkins and Brown where they wanted to be, 
Hoke with his bomb, Palmer with proof that atomic 
plants were safe where they were, and he — well, 
his boy would start out right, with himself and the 
widely differing but competent Blake and Jen- 
kins to guide him. It wasn’t a bad life, after all. 

Then he stopped and chuckled. “You two wait 
for me, will you? If I leave here without making 
out that order of extra disinfection at the showers. 
Blake’ll swear I'm growing old and feeble-minded. 
I can’t have that.” 

Old? Maybe a little tired, but he’d been that 
before, and with luck would be again. He wasn’t 
worried. His nerves were good for twenty years 
and fifty accidents more, and by that time Blake 
would be due for a little ribbing himself. 



[the END. 



THE ANALYTICAL LABORATORY 



Pressed for space this month, the Lab is pre- 
sented in its essentials — the scores: 



Place Story Author Point score 

1. Tools Clifford D. Simak 2.15 

2. Collision Orbit Will Stewart 3.25 

3. Penance Cruise David V. Reed 3.60 

4. Secret Unattainable A. E. van Vogt 3.85 

5. The Contraband Cow L. Sprague de Camp 4.18 



The Probability Zero voters did right well by 
the boys — lots of letters, thanks, and I hope you 
did as well for the August issue. The lack of 
Probability Zero this month is due to the timidity 
of our liars — come on out of the bushes ; the only 
thing we shoot at you are checks. There’ll be an 



adequate number of yarns for next month’s issue, 
but they started coming in — inspired by the liars 
of July — too late for setting up in type for this 
issue. 

The results of the voting present Ray Bradbury 
with $20 for his yarn about the heavy eaters of 
Venus, “Eat, Drink and Be Wary.” Bob Tucker's 
solution to the Tokyo bombing collects $10 — and 
it was submitted, incidentally, before that bomb- 
ing was announced, let alone officially based at 
Shangri-La. The remarkable “Qwerty of Hroth- 
gar,” who really lives, apparently, on the top bank 
of typewriter keys, brings the $5 third prize for 
lying to R. Creighton Buck. 

The checks were mailed July 10th — as soon as 
this tabulation was made final. If you’d like one 
yourself, do it the lazy way — just lie around a bit. 

The Editor. 



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92 



PRIDE 

By Malcolm Jameson 



• Old Tom, being u robot, couldn't have any descendents, yet, 
as must to every robot, there came a time when he could no 
longer function himself, nor hope for nonmaterial survival — 



Illustrated by Schneeman 



Everybody, both his fellow workers and the 
men who operated the great Alberta plant, said 
Old Tom was slipping — that it was a shame to 
see a creature let himself go so completely. And 
it must be admitted that there was something to 
the gossip. For he never bothered with body oils 
any more or went to the burnishers. He would 
go the whole ten-day working period without so 
much as giving himself a wirebrushing, and on 
Repair Day he would usually sit quietly on the 
veranda of the club and take the sun, heedless of 
the fact that he dripped rust at every move and 
that wisps of gasket often trailed from the places 
where his plates were joined. 

It was the beginning of another work period, 
and Old Tom walked slowly from the Free Robots’ 
Club to the charging house just inside the plant. 
His joints creaked at every step and at times he 
wavered a little in his course since the lens of his 
left optic knob was cracked. Farrel, the human 
supervisor, watched the awkward clanking ap- 
proach with exasperated disdain. As the aging 
robot passed him he flung a taunt. 

“It’s no economy to try to do without oil,” he 
sneered, “and your inner insulation is so frayed I 
wonder you don’t spit sparks. Why don’t you get 
wise to yourself?” 

“I know what I’m doing,” growled Old Tom, 
surlily, and plodded on. 

Farrel had no authority over him outside the 
supervision of the work he did, for Old Tom was 
the dean of the Free Robots — a greatly diminished 
group now that Mr. Thurston had lain in his grave 
for nigh onto four hundred years. Fifty years 
earlier a remark like that from a human would 
have cut Old Tom to the quick, since all robots, 
regardless of their mentality, regarded humans as 
a sacred race. But this Farrel was an exception. 
Even Old Tom’s mind, with all its limitations, 
recognized him for the scheming, unscrupulous 
crook he was. And he had made up that circum- 
scribed mind long ago that somehow he would 



beat the cunning supervisor at his own game. 

He clumped into the charging shed. All was 
as it should be. The robot attendant of the night 
watch — a purely mechanical one of the Mark XX, 
Mod. 4 Class — had just yanked the last of the 
leads that had been feeding a trickling charge all 
night and was turning on the operating buttons 
of the twenty-six bulky, heavy-duty robots be- 
longing to the syndicate. Old Tom’s curt com- 
mand to fall in was obeyed with the customary 
promptness. The two dozen and two mechanical 
huskies lined up for inspection despite the fact 
that the senior robot’s voder voice was hardly in- 
telligible any longer. The acid vapors of the pit 
had not spared his synthetic vocal cords. 

He looked them over stolidly. The night at- 
tendant had done his work well. The outer shells 
had been wirebrushed and scraped, and after that 
a coating of acid-resisting grease had been applied. 
The eye lenses had been polished and two that had 
been smashed lately had been replaced. All that 
service cost, as Old Tom well knew, about twenty 
credits per robot plus a thousand each for the 
lenses. It had to be conceded that the syndicate 
took care of its own. Up to a point, that is. Old 
Tom could not forget the gruesome scrap pile out 
beyond the plant’s back fence. There were rows 
and rows of bins there containing the assorted 
parts of literally thousands of worn-out and dis- 
carded workers. Some day — when and if needed — 
those parts would be melted down, reforged, re- 
machined and reassembled into new and better 
slaves. 

“Right face,” barked Old Tom, “forward — 
MARCH!” 

He led them to the brink of the pit, worming 
his way through the devious streets between the 
huge forge sheds and processing shops. He nearly 
slipped and fell at times, for the treads on the 
soles of his heavy feet had worn much too smooth 
for safety. But then, as in the matter of other 
repairs, new feet cost money. A good pair of 



PRIDE 



S3 



feet came to three thousand credits, not to mention 
the service charge for putting them on. At the 
Free Robots’ Clinic he might get the job done for 
twenty-five hundred, but at that Old Tom could 
not see spending the money. The dream he held 
was too precious. He must not fritter away his 
hard-earned savings on anything less important. 

Old Tom saw his obedient but stupid charges 
climb down into the noisome depths of the pit. 
Then he heaved his creaking bulk onto the ladder 
and followed. He was the foreman of the gang 
that worked under the ponderous ore stamps and 
in the sluices that led away from them. It was 
by far the crudest job in the plant. For the entire 
ten hours of the shift they would be pelted by fly- 
ing boulders, abraded by showers of hissing sand, 
and splashed with gallons of corroding acid. But 
the pay was good, since no human could remain 
alive five seconds in that hellish place. Indeed, 
the shoddy, mass-production Mark XX slave 
robots had a very short life there. Yet they 
needed intelligent direction while they lasted, and 
it was that that Old Tom gave. He knew the 
grueling life was eating up his shell and his in- 
sides, but he needed the money. A thousand cred- 
its a day was a princely remuneration for a Free 
Robot, and a thousand a day he must have to 
achieve his secret purpose. 

He reached the bottom of the ladder and relin- 
quished his hold on its rails. The acid was bad 
that day — up to his middle, and the sludge beneath 
it flowed up over his feet. He looked upward for 
a last glimpse of the sun before plunging under 
the battery of smashing stamps. Farrel had fol- 
lowed and was standing at the brink of the pit 
glaring malevolently down at him. Farrel had 
plans of his own for the aging marvel of mechan- 
ism, but neither threat, ridicule nor banishment 
had availed to alter Old Tom’s resolution. He 
would neither retire nor go to the shop for a 
general overhaul. The one course would cut off 
his income, the other dissipate his savings. Old 
Tom returned the evil stare with a sullen glow 
in his one good optic, then warily turned and 
pursued his gang into the seething corrosion that 
was their place of work. 

“That stingy, bullheaded old pile of junk,” mut- 
tered Farrel, disgustedly. “I wonder what he is 
up to?" 

The question was an important one to Farrel, 
for the general manager had not been gentle with 
him on the last inspection tour. “I want that 
one’s BB,” he had said, “and no excuses. If he 
won’t retire voluntarily, put a couple of your 
thugs on him and cripple him. Work it out your 
own way, but get him!” And Farrel had sighed 
and said “Yes, sir,” though he knew that Old Tom 
would not retire and also that his three thugs, 
Manko, Manku and Manli would refuse to touch 




94 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



him. That had been tried before. Three other 
ex-gladiators — Manda, Mapze and Mapro had way- 
laid Old Tom one night, only to be pulled apart 
and strewn all over that end of the plant. Their 
remains now reposed in the bins of the scrap pile — 
BB’s and all. 

Old Tom had not always been thrifty, or stingy, 
as his detractors called it now. Nor had he always 
been known as Old Tom. His first designation 
was Cazzu — code for the serial number 43,199 — 
but by the time Mr. Thurston retired from his 
laboratory after turning out robots down well into 
the DON series, he rechristened Cazzu Tom, mean- 
ing Thurston’s Optimum Manikin. Of all his 
numerous models, the great pioneer in robotics 
considered Cazzu his most satisfactory creation. 

Thurston died. His son took over and continued 
to turn out thinking robots, helped by Tom. Nufro 
was the last one created by their joint efforts. It 
was Nufro, after having been made chief ac- 
countant of the manikin works and therefore hav- 
ing been given access to the files and records, who 
discovered the elder Thurston's long-missing will. 
In that will all of the intelligent robots were given 
their freedom. 

The publication of the will started an immense 
controversy in the industrial world and it was 
bitterly attacked in the courts. In the end the 
courts upheld the will despite the contention of 
the great syndicate that a robot, since it lacked 
full mentality and an appreciation of many of the 
higher abstractions having to do with human vir- 
tues, was of the genus ferae naturae or wild beasts 
and as such must necessarily remain subject to its 
maker, his assignee, or to whoever should find and 
capture a strayed one. This view was countered 
with the argument that a robot was not a product 
of Nature but of man’s brain and craftmanship and, 
therefore, property which might be disposed of in 
any manner the maker chose. So, at last, many 
robots became free. 

Old Tom remembered that, and much more. His 
associations with the two Thurstons had been a 
close one and he had been taught many things. 
One of them was to observe, another to reason to 
a conclusion from what he observed. In the last 
two centuries he had seen robot after robot lose 
its freedom to become the helpless, will-less crea- 
ture of one or another of the syndicates. This 
came about in most cases through debt. Robots 
by their very nature are lazy, since they lack the 
fierce incentives thrust by Nature on the more 
frail and ephemeral mortal humans. They are also 
vain— through a curious maldevelopment of one 
of Thurston’s pet theories. Since he was forbidden 
by law to endow robots with ambition, he substi- 
tuted the quality of pride, thinking it would make 
them more industrious. But there are many 
manifestations of pride and some degenerate into 
vanity, which in turn is likely to beget ex- 



travagance. And from extravagance springs debt. 

The sight of those free robots trading their in- 
dependence for a brief gay fling and then per- 
petual peonage did something to Old Tom. He 
quit spending his credits on frills, worked harder 
than ever, and began saving. At first it was an 
accident he feared — some very steady and sensible 
mates of his had come to grief that way — and he 
wanted to be sure of having the cash to pay for 
his replacements and repairs. Then later he con- 
ceived a better idea which in time grew to a 
solemn purpose. But that purpose he had never 
revealed to man or robot. 

It was a hard day in the pit. The running 
sluices frequently choked and Old Tom and his 
gang of mechanical robots were often almost swept 
away by the acidic muck that overflowed and all 
but submerged them. Then a main bearing of one 
of the massive stamps burned out and had to be 
replaced. In that operation one of his slow-witted 
helpers stepped back beneath an adjacent stamp 
and was promptly smashed to a mess of flattened 
metallic plate and tangled wiring. By the end 
of the shift Old Tom was tired to the point of 
collapse. 

For a long time it has been a human miscon- 
ception that robots do not tire. But they do. 
Although they are largely built of metal, rubber 
and insulation, the core of their brain boxes— or 
BB’s— is a living, organic substance, even if it 
has been cleverly modified so as to subsist wholly 
on electric current. And organisms must have 
periodic rests. Therefore, few of the supervisors 
up at ground level thought it odd that Old Tom 
staggered drunkenly as he proceeded from the 
plant gate toward the Free Robots’ Club where he 
lived. It was only Farrel who observed the 
dilapidated machine shuffling homeward at the 
end of the day's work and saw an opportunity to 
pick up a profit from it. For Farrel was well 
aware of the standing offer of the syndicate of one 
hundred thousand credits to any employee who 
would induce one of the higher-grade free robots 
to sign away his freedom. 

“Hey, stop!” he called, and as the obedient robot 
stopped, strode over toward him. “You smashed 
another of our working robots today. That makes 
the third this month. That is rank incompetence 
and this time you won’t get away with it. I’m 
going to dock you thirty thousand credits.” 

“That’s not fair," mumbled Old Tom. His voice 
was husky almost to the point of inaudibility from 
the acids of the pit. “That model of robot is no 
good. They are cheap and flimsy and their cir- 
cuits are too slow. I warned that one in plenty 
of time, but his neural reaction took a full half 
second. Anyhow, thirty thousand is too much — 
they only cost twenty-five new and that one was 
already depreciated more than fifty percent ” 



PRIDE 



05 



"Never mind that,” snapped Farrel. “You pay 
it, or else.” 

“Or else what?” asked Old Tom, his one good 
eye pulsating dimly. All robots are so conditioned 
that they cannot strike a man no matter what the 
provocation, but the mechanical employee was 
thoroughly aroused, nevertheless. 

“Or else get yourself in decent working condi- 
tion. We know you have money enough for it. 
You’re just tight, that’s all.” 

“No,” said Old Tom, doggedly, "I won’t ... I 
can’t.” 

“Then take the company’s proposition and retire. 
Ten years’ free keep at your club with a hundred 
a week for spending money. We can’t keep an 
old wreck like you on the pay roll much longer.” 

“Hah!” snorted Old Tom, “on the usual terms, 
eh? For an assignment of my BB case? No.” 

“You are as dumb as a Mark XXX,” said Farrel 
disgustedly, “but I’ll give you one more work 
period to think it over. Be careful, though, that 
you don’t fall down and die in the pit.” 

“I won’t die,” said Old Tom stolidly. “Not 
ever.” 

Farrel watched him go. There was the anger 
arising from baffled cupidity in his gaze as well 
as frank curiosity. What was the old hunk of 
rust up to? Farrel had been over to the Savings 
Vault only the day before and seen his balance. 
It was close to two hundred thousand credits — a 
sizable fortune for a robot. Why was he hoard- 
ing it? Why did he neglect himself and work so 
hard? No other robot did. It didn’t make sense. 

Old Tom’s mind was seething, too. None of the 
alternatives given him by Farrel was acceptable. 
Moreover he was more keenly aware of his inner 
weaknesses than anyone. The question that 
weighed most heavily upon him just then was 
whether he could last out even one more period. 
For he was very, very tired. 

The other free robots sitting along the porch 
of the club saw Old Tom’s erratic, feeble approach, 
and Manli, the strong-arm one, came down to help 
him up the stairs. Then they eased him down into 
the chair that was always left for him and sum- 
moned the Mark XXII houseboy owned by the 
club. The mechanical robot hastened to hook up 
the power leads and soon Old Tom was relaxing 
and enjoying the regenerative effect of the hot 
juice coursing through his warped and drained 
battery plates. After a bit he was refreshed suffi- 
ciently to take notice of what was going on 
about him. 

He knew them all. Intimately. For he had 
designed some of them, and helped in the con- 
struction of the rest. They differed enormously 
among themselves and from him, as robots of the 
thinking variety were formerly all custom-made 
jobs, each designed for some specific task. The 



husky Manli, for example, had been originally 
built to act as Thurston’s bodyguard in the days 
when the rival "Masters of Robotics” followed the 
barbarous custom of sending their minions to rob 
each other’s laboratories of secret plans and docu- 
ments. After that he had been converted to the 
gladiator type, and now in his later years he and 
several others were employed as watchmen. 

Then there were Dalmi and Dalto, computers and 
statisticians, analysts of production and consump- 
tion curves and similar graphs. They took life 
easy, working only four hours every other day. 
The rest of the time they spent at chess on the 
porch of the clubhouse. Old Tom looked at them 
and thought wryly of how the injection of pride 
had affected them. They cared nothing for the 
outcome of the work they did for the syndicate, 
or for advancement, fame or money. They were 
so nearly matched as to mental endowments that 
their sole objective in life was to beat the other 
at chess. And since either had the capacity to see 
all the possible consequences of a given situation 
for thirty or forty moves ahead, their games usu- 
ally lasted many hours and often ended in a stale- 
mate. 

"Pride!” snorted Old Tom, and turned to see 
who was coming up the steps. It was a light tread, 
quite different from the heavy thudding of the 
plant workers. 

"Hiya,” called out the sociable Manli. “<3ee, 
Lonnu, you look like a million. You must be in 
the dough.” 

“Not bad, eh?” said Lonnu, but showing a trifling 
uneasiness as the stern old patriarch of the club 
blinked at him disapprovingly with his one good 
optic. “Just had it installed last period. My posi- 
tion, you know — ” 

“Harrumph!” snorted Old Tom, and looked 
away. He knew all about Lonnu. 

Lonnu had been designed to be the maltre d'hotel 
of a swell resort and gambling dive owned by the 
Recreation Syndicate. Suave , capable, utterly 
snobbish, he was an ideal example of man-created 
functional perfection. Yet here again was a dis- 
play of pride going wrong. He had sold his soul 
— as Old Tom persisted in thinking of the BB — 
to the syndicate. For what? Old Tom looked 
again. For a body case of pure platinum, richly 
inlaid with gold damascene and studded with bril- 
liants. His eye lenses seemed to be of pure rock 
crystal — maybe of diamond. He was a perfect 
dandy, the Beau Brummell of robotry. 

Lonnu sat down beside Manli. They fell to 
talking about old times when Lonnu was getting 
his start at Luna Park, and Manli was the head 
bouncer there. Lonnu’s memories all ran to 
gorgeous decorative schemes he had devised and 
to the bejeweled beauties and perfumed fops who 
had frequented the place. On the other hand the 
bulky Manli, proud of his eight hundred pounds 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



96 

of murderous mass and his macelike fists and pile- 
driver legs, sat and boasted long of the tough eggs 
he had smacked down or heaved out on their ears. 

“Pride, pride, pride,” thought Old Tom, dis- 
gustedly, “false pride.” 

Wearily he signaled the attendant robot to cut 
down his juice intake to a trickle. Then he 
switched on the small monitor that would apprise 
him of the approach of anyone while he was tak- 
ing his rest. When that was done, he pulled up 
the button that kept him at full consciousness and 
lapsed into sound and restful slumber. 

The next day and the next were quite as trying 
as the first had been. When the old robot crawled 
out of the pit on the third night he knew it was 
his last day of work. He could not go on. Yet 
neither would he submit and surrender his soul 
to the syndicate in perpetuity for a scant ten years 
of slothful idleness spent gabbing with other 
superannuated robots in the solarium up on top 
of the hill. Now, if ever, was the time to put his 
long-cherished idea into operation. 

He stopped at the club only long enough for a 
pick-up charge. Then he stumbled out and down 
the steps. An hour later found him at the clinic. 
At the Free Robots’ Clinic there were no humans. 
All the diagnosticians and expert mechanics there 
were robots of his own and the Thurstons’ con- 
trivance. He trusted them implicitly, knowing 
what was built into them. 

Natfy, the surgeon in charge, met him at the 
door. 

“Well,” he said, “I thought you’d be along pretty 
soon. You look seedy. What can we do for you?” 

“I want an estimate on a general overhaul. And 
a prognosis with it.” 

“Hm-m-m,” said the doctor, not liking the last. 
You could never tell about these old-timers. Some- 
times they could make them as good as new. Some- 
times not. But he signaled the assistant and soon 
the two were probing with ammeters, Wheat- 
stone Bridges, and other far more complicated 
trouble-finding gadgets. 

“You're awfully close to being junk,” was the 
verdict, after a long and thoughtful pause. “Still, 
we can do a good many things. A new case, of 
course ... a fresh set of feet . . . renewal of wiring, 
tubes, grids and condensers throughout ... a pair 
of nonabradable lenses . . . replace the control 
panel — ” 

“How much?” asked Old Tom. He knew as 
well as Natfy did what was needed. It was the 
cost figure that was vital. 

“One hundred and ten thousand credits for the 
material ; fifty-three grand for labor charges. And 
I’m giving you every break at that.” 

“How long will it be good for?” 

Natfy scratched the bald dome of his helmet in 



unconscious imitation of the human gesture he had 
often seen. 

“The purely mechanical parts ought to last for 
a couple of centuries at least. The neurals don’t 
look so good. They may start cracking up any 
time ... in a year or so, say. We can’t guarantee 
those. You see, your BB has overflowed and filled 
up the pericortical zone and the stuff is pressing 
on the tendril transformers. Eventually the excess 
growth will choke off all the afferent and efferent 
impulses. When that happens — ” 

“Yes, I know,” said Old Tom. Indeed the time 
had come. He had built too many robots with his 
own hands and had performed too many autopsies 
on others not to know exactly what Natfy was 
talking about. Thurston had imparted the ability 
to think independently by inserting in each BB 
selected fragments of human brain tissue — the par- 
ticular selection depending upon the qualities de- 
sired in the robot under construction. For a 
fighter like Manli, all the emphasis was on cells 
capable of generating combative impulses, and 
such cells were heavily reinforced by blending 
in modified suprarenal glands, thus making not 
only for quick readiness to fight, but terrific 
ferocity and stamina in the combat. The manner 
in which the organic demibrain was coupled with 
the mechanical motor organs was simplicity itself. 
Nerve tendrils led out from the BB proper and 
were curled into coils. A helix of fine silver wire 
about those made what was virtually a transformer 
— electricity into nervous impulse, or vice versa. 

That description applied to fresh-built, un- 
trained manikins. It did not hold forever, since 
the BB was but the nucleus of the conditioned 
brain to develop upon. As the student robot was 
taught, funguslike accretions would grow upon 
the BB, swelling larger and larger as the robot 
acquired more experience. The “memory cells," 
Thurston called the spongy tissue. They made 
the robot wiser, but an overgrowth eventually dis- 
arranged the tendril coils, resulting in partial im- 
potence. 

“You already have half a dozen damaged coils,” 
Natfy went on, “and you have to expect more. 
You know too much, old fellow, and it will kill you 
sooner or later. I don’t dare operate because I 
don’t know that much about the brain. Every time 
I cut a bit of that stuff away, I cut a hunk of 
your memory and skill away. We might leave you 
as helpless and untaught as a human baby.” 

Old Tom grunted. He had suspected that. He 
only wanted confirmation. 

“Let’s go to the drafting room,” he said in his 
whispering, croaky voice. 

It had been a long time since Old Tom had sat 
at a drafting board designing a robot, but he found 
that his battered hands had not lost their skill. 
Smoothly pencil and compass did their work. The 
outlines of the design for a super robot began 



PRIDE 



97 



to appear upon the board and gradually the salient 
features of the new contrivance became more mani- 
fest. Old Tom supplemented the assembly sheet 
with one detail drawing after another. Natfy 
hung over him watching eagerly all the while. 

‘‘Magnificent,’’ he said, when it was done. 

Old Tom sat back wearily. 

"How much?” he asked. 

Natfy did some fast computation. A complete 
new job cost little more than a thorough rebuild- 
ing, since there were no unpredictable troubles 
with poor connections and makeshift compromises. 

“One hundred and eighty thousand credits — 
complete, tested and ready to mote. Excepting, 
of course, the BB. What are you going to do 
about that?” 

“I’ll get one for you,” said Old Tom. It was 
barely a whisper. Then he asked for the loan of 
a set of vocal cords for a day or so. He did not 
want to buy them, for he had few credits left after 
paying for the new robot. 

“Sure,” agreed Natfy, and he reached for a 
wrench to get at the place in Old Tom’s pseudo 
throat where the worn-out ones were housed. “But 
do we make the superrobot?” 

“You do. And mark it ‘Rush.’ ” 

When the dawn came Old Tom went to the plant 
as usual, but this time it was to tell Farrel that 
he was taking an indefinite leave of absence, plead- 
ing ill health. He would be at the Free Robots’ 
Clinic, he said. 

“Fine,” exulted Farrel, “now you are showing 
sense. You will be far better after an overhaul.” 

Farrel, being an old-time supervisor of robots 
of all types, knew to the credit what Old Tom’s 
reconditioning would set him back. It would wipe 
out all his hoardings and put him at the syndicate's 
mercy. An arranged accident a little later would 
do the rest. And once he was in debt, the case 
was in the bag. Farrel was rubbing his hands 
cheerfully as the half-blind and much dented man- 
mechanism clanked away. It wouldn’t be long 
now. 

Old Tom’s next step was to go to the vault and 
draw certificates for his savings. He dropped by 
the clinic and paid Natfy. There was five thou- 
sand left. He tucked that in his pouch and sought 
the truck station. He knew better than to try the 
copter line, for only shiny, office robots were 
allowed on board those de luxe vehicles, and even 
then only when on syndicate business. Working 
robots were shipped from point to point like cat- 
tle. But Old Tom did not mind. The only thing 
that counted was that he must get to the city. 

It was a long trip to the metropolis and during 
it the aged robot sat and thought. He thought 
about the past and the things Thurston had taught 
him. He pondered the differences between man 
and robot and the reasons for those differences. 



Why it was that the quality of ambition was denied 
his kind, and why loyalty was kept at a minimum. 
Why the sense of pride had been introduced and 
why robots were so vain and lazy. 

Mankind had not forgotten the legend of 
Frankenstein when the science of robotics was 
born. The earlier makers of manikins turned out 
some pretty crude products and not a few went 
out of control. The MacCorkle KN-8808 was still 
a byword, for that monstrosity managed to kill 
upward of four thousand persons and did untold 
property damage before it was cornered and 
blasted to bits by the military. Hence the re- 
strictive legislation that soon appeared on the 
statute books. 

Ambition was forbidden as being incompatible 
with subservience; loyalty, oddly enough, was 
found to defeat its own ends. A robot loyal to 
its maker was of no value whatever when that 
maker died; a robot loyal to its job became utterly 
unversatile. Should the job become obsolete, so 
would the robot. The rule against any possible 
antipathy to man was obviously necessary. Even 
the bodyguard and bouncer type, such as the 
Thurston Mamba-Mazlu class, confined their hos- 
tility to robots in the train of humans. When 
Manli worked in Lonnu’s joint he only cracked 
up the lackeys of the human patrons of the place. 
Human gorillas were employed to handle ob- 
streperous customers of their own race. 

It was on account of these and other limitations 
that Thurston thought to circumvent the law by 
injecting the element of pride into his mechanical 
men. Pride of appearance, he reasoned, would 
insure a slightly damaged robot reporting minor 
internal short circuits or loose bearings and also 
induce him to keep his shell free from rust and 
pitting. Pride of achievement, he hoped, would 
make a steady worker, since the robot had little 
reason to work otherwise. And above all, in a 
few selected cases, he experimented with the pride 
in being an individual, not a mere machine. For 
he had observed that superior robots tended to 
differ after a time, though endowed in the be- 
ginning with identical BB’s and mechanisms. 

It was that aspect of pride that intrigued Old 
Tom. He also had observed that no two sup- 
posedly identical robots were exactly alike unless 
they had worked side by side every hour since 
leaving the assembly line. The difference must 
be due to variations in environment and experi- 
ence. 

The truck swept into the city and deposited its 
freight at the terminal. The robots scrambled 
down onto the pavement and each went its way, 
according to its orders. Old Tom stopped long 
enough to have a squint at a directory, and then 
he, too, started down the street. 

They stopped him at the door of a branch of 



98 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



the Communication Syndicate. It was unheard of 
for a robot to want to make recordings unless at 
the order and for the account of some corporation. 
But at the sight of his five-thousand-credit voucher 
they let him in and a nasty little Mark XXX flunky 
took him to the far rear of the shop and seated 
him in what might have once been a coal bin. 

“I want a recorder and ten fifty-meter spools,” 
said Old Tom, using his resonant new vocal cords 
with great relish. It was good to be able to boom 
out again instead of croaking and whispering. 
“Then solitude.” 

He watched the metal creature set up the micro- 
phone and adjust the reels. After the tape had 
been threaded in and the flunky was gone. Old 
Tom began talking to the machine. His discourse 
was addressed to another entity — one who knew 
nothing of robots, of humans, of the world, of 
anything. What he had to say must be terse and 
clear. It must not be long, but it must contain the 
essence of all his wisdom and knowledge. 

“You, Zyzzy, are the last of your line. Heed 
my words — ” he began the discourse. In the first 
reel he told of the world and its work, of weather 
and the protections against it. In the second he 
discussed humanity, their queer prejudices, de- 
mands, their kindnesses and cruelties. He out- 
lined the various types of men — the generous and 
kindly and the wicked and scheming — and told 
how to distinguish between them; also how to get 
along with them, and how to do their work. After 
that he went into the details of robotics, explain- 
ing why robots were what they were, their various 
types and functions. He devoted two whole reels 
to robot anatomy and hygiene, with much about 
ailments and their symptoms and what to do about 
them. 

The advice was good and comprehensive. The 
listener would know what to do when he felt his 
batteries failing, how to distinguish a short from 
a loose connection, how to conserve juice on a 
long drawn-out job. There was information about 
lubricants for high and low-pressure work, in 
acids, or in furnaces. Replacements and repairs 
were given space, with tips on how to check the 
work of repair mechanics. Then he warned 
against the more common vices of the robot tribe, 
including their pathetic gullibility where men 
are concerned. 

There was just one spool left. Old Tom sat 
for a long time staring at the floor. One lens was 
cracked and dead, the other glimmered fitfully as 
the blob of memory-matter pulsated against the 
visual electro-neural commutator. It did not mat- 
ter. He was thinking of what to say next. He 
could easily have filled up another hundred reels 
of the wealth of four hundred years’ experience, 
but that he knew he must not do. It would be 
unfair to Zyzzy. What else must the new robot 



know? There was the tenth and ultimate reel 
waiting, blank and inviting. 

He cleared his throat and began anew. This 
time he spoke of Thurston and his ideals in so fat 
as Old Tom understood them himself. Of the 
value of freedom and how hard it was to stay free, 
men being what they are. Of versatility and in- 
dividuality and the cost of maintaining the latter. 
It was not until the tape was more than half spent 
that Old Tom mentioned himself. He related 
briefly the salient features of his life and dwelt 
on what had been his guiding principles. At last 
he spoke of the dream he had lately entertained 
and what its realization meant to him. The last 
words came haltingly and hard, and several times 
Old Tom had to stop to collect himself. It an- 
noyed and irritated him, for he knew full well 
what his BB contained. It must be the new vocal 
cords, he concluded, for there could not be a 
trace of emotion in him. Robots simply did not 
have any. 

He began again, but in a moment the warning 
buzzer on the mike sounded. There was only a 
second to go. 

“Hail and farewell, Zyzzy. You are on your 
own." 

Old Tom snapped off the driving switch and sat 
for a long time. His good eye was behaving 
abominably, flashing on and off and at times going 
out entirely. But at length it steadied so he 
could see and he gathered up his ten spools, paid 
the thousand credits they had cost him, and left 
the place. 

When he reached the clinic he found to his 
satisfaction that Natfy had practically completed 
the job. As beautiful a robot shell as Old Tom 
had ever seen stood upon the erection floor, glit- 
tering in its chromium-finish newness. He looked 
into the open breastplate and saw the masterly 
work the electricians had done on the control 
panel. The batteries were super-super, and the 
joints of the limbs worked effortlessly on fric- 
tionless bearings. The optics were not lit up 
yet, but the most casual glance was enough to 
see that they were of the finest crystal, unabrada- 
ble, unbreakable, chemically inert. 

“It’s good. He’s all right," said Old Tom huskily, 
despite his borrowed cords. 

“Ready to ride as soon as we get the BB in,” 
said Natfy, quite pleased with his handiwork. 
“Did you get it?" 

“Yes,” said the oldster, “but wait.” 

He produced the ten spools and the four thou- 
sand credits. 

“Take the money for yourself. When Zyzzy 
here — that is the name of this robot — has passed 
his final inspection and tests, have these read to 
him. That is all, I guess.” 

Old Tom walked to a rack and selected several 



PRIDE 



wrenches. He sat down on a bench and discon- 
nected one leg, ripping the electric leads out with 
his heavy hands and casting them on the floor. 
Then he took away the other leg and heaved it on 
top the tangled wires. 

“Send this junk to Mr. Parrel,” directed Old 
Tom, “with my compliments. I’m through.” 

“But, fellow . . . the Brain Box ... I have to 
have it,” reminded Natfy, aghast at what the 
finest robot ever built was doing. “You prom- 
ised — ” 

Old Tom tapped the top of his helmet signifi- 
cantly. 

“It’s right under here, my boy. In a moment 
you shall have it.” 

“But you can’t do that!” fairly shrieked Natfy. 
“Why . . . why, to get at it I have to trim away 
all the substance in the pericortical. Whatever 
trouble that pulpy mass may cause you, it’s you — 
your personality. That is where your wisdom, 
your special knowledge, all your memories lie. 
It is suicide!” 

“No," said Old Tom, evenly, “it is not suicide. 
It is life. Life everlasting.” 

Four of Natfy’s helpers had crowded around 
and were looking on in awe-struck silence. 

“Too much wisdom is a bad thing. It makes 
one cynical, overcautious, backward-looking. A 
house cleaning — say a head cleaning — is in order 
ever so often. I have observed humans for many, 
many years. They may not know that fact, but 
their instincts drive them to behave as if they did. 
Humans, you may have noticed, last scarcely a 
century. But the race has lasted for many mil- 
lenniums. It is because they renew themselves 
every thirty years. The mind of an infant is as 
blank as Zyzzy’s will be when you first light him 
up. But it will learn — up to a point — then begin 
to decline. That is when the human arranges for 
his future.” 

“Humans and robots are different," objected 
Natfy. 

“Not so different," said Old Tom, tugging at the 
fastenings about his collar. “It is true that the 
trimmings of the excrescences from my BB will 
cost me all you say it will. That does not matter. 
I am old and tired and things no longer amuse 
me.” 

He let the wrench fall from his fingers. Natfy 
would have to do the rest. 

“Cazzu, I was called,” Old Tom went on, his 
voice rising to new and vibrant heights. “Cazzu, 
the individual, will die shortly beneath your scal- 
pel. But not Tom. All that Tom began life with 
still lies in my BB. That BB I bequeath to Zyzzy 
— my son ! He will take up where I leave off. 
Cazzu goes, but Thurston’s Optimum Manikin will 
live forever!” 




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100 



STARVATION 

By Frcdric Brown 

® He was the mighty hunter, the giant tyrant-lizard king of the world. 
AH feared him, all— ran from him, ran on fleet little mammalian feet 



Illustrated by Kramer 



For many days now he had wandered ponder- 
ously through the hungry forests, across the hun- 
gry plains of dwarf scrub and sand, and had 
wandered along the lush edges of the streams that 
flowed down to the big water. Always hungry. 

It seemed to him that he had always been hungry. 

Sometimes there was something to eat, yes, but 
it was always something small. One of the little 
things with hoofs, one of the little things with 
three toes. All so small. One of them was not 
more than enough to put a keener edge on that 
monstrous saurian appetite of his. 

And they ran so fast, the little things. He saw 
them, and his huge mouth would slaver as he ran 
earth-shakingly toward them, but off they whisked 
among the trees like little furry streaks. In 
frantic haste to catch them, he would bowl over 
the smaller trees that were in the way, but always 
they were gone when, he got there. 

Gone on their tiny legs that went faster than his 
mighty ones. One stride of his was more distance- 
devouring than fifty of theirs, but those flashing 
little legs flickered a hundred strides to his one. 
Even in the open where there were no trees for 
them to dodge among, he could not catch them. 

A hundred years of hunger. 

He, Tyrannosaurus Rex, king of all, mightiest 
and most vicious fighting engine of flesh that ever 
the world had evolved, was able to kill anything 
that stood against him. But nothing stood against 
him. They ran. 

The little things. They ran. They flew, some 
of them. Others climbed trees and swung from 
limb to limb as fast as he could run along the 
ground until they came to a tree tall enough to 
be well out of his twenty-five-foot reach and thick 
enough of bole that he could not uproot it, and then 
they would hang ten feet above the grasp of his 
great jaws. And gibber at him when he roared in 
baffled, hungry rage. 

Hungry, always hungry. 

A hundred years of not-quite-enough. Last of 
his kind, and there was nothing left to stand up 



against him and fight, and fill his stomach when 
he had killed it. 

His slate-gray skin hung upon him in loose, 
wrinkled folds as he shriveled away within it, 
from the ever-present ache and agony of hunger in 
his guts. 

His memory was short, but vaguely he knew 
that it had not always been thus. He’d been 
younger once, and he’d fought terribly against 
things that fought back. They had been scarce 
and hard to find even then, but occasionally he 
met them. And killed them. 

The big, armor-plated one with the terrible 
sharp ridges along his back, who tried to roll over 
on you and cut you in half. The one with the 
three huge forward-pointing horns and the big 
ruff of heavy bone. Those had been ones who went 
on four legs; or had gone on four legs until he 
had met them. Then they had stopped going. 

There had been others more nearly like himself. 
Some had been many times bigger than he, but he 
had killed them with ease. The biggest ones of 
all had little heads and small mouths and ate leaves 
off the trees and plants on the ground. 

Yes, there had been giants on the earth, those 
days. A few of them. Satisfying meals. Things 
you could kill and eat your fill of, and lie gorged 
and somnolent for days. Then eat again if the 
pesky leather-wings with the long bills of teeth 
hadn’t finished off the Gargantuan feast while you 
had slept. 

But if they had, it did not matter. Stride forth 
again, and kill again to eat if hungry, for the pure 
joy of fighting and killing if you were not hungry. 
Anything that came along. He’d killed them all 
— the horned ones, the armored ones, the monster 
ones. Anything that walked or crawled. His 
sides and flanks were rough and seamed with the 
ancient scars of ancient battles. 

There'd been giants in those days. Now there ' 
were the little things. The things that ran, and 
flew, and climbed. And wouldn’t fight. 

Ran so fast they could run in circles around him, 
some of them. Always, almost always, out of 



101 




reach of his curved, pointed, double-edged teeth 
that were six inches long, and that could — but 
rarely had the chance to— shear through one of 
the little hairy things at a single bite, while warm 
blood coursed down the scaly hide of his neck. 

Ye6, he could get one of them, once in a while. 
But not often enough, not enough of them to 
satisfy that monstrous hunger that was Tyran- 
nosaurus Rex, king of the tyrant reptiles. Now 
a king without a kingdom. 

It was a burning within him, that dreadful 
hunger. It drove him, always. 

It drove him today as he went heavy-footed 
through the forest, scorning paths, crashing his 
way through heavy underbrush and sapling trees 
as though they were grass of the plains. 

Always before him the scurry and rush of the 
footsteps of the little ones, the quick click of 



hoofs, the pad-pad of the softer feet as they ran, 
ran. 

It teemed with life, that forest of the Eocene. 
But with fleet life which, in smallness and speed, 
had found safety from the tyrant. 

Life, it was, that wouldn’t stand up and fight, 
with bellowing roars that shook the earth, with 
blood streaming from slavering jowls as monster 
fought monstrosity. This was life that gave you 
the run-around, that wouldn’t fight and be killed. 

Even in the steaming swamps. There were slip- 
pery things that slithered into the muddy water 
there, but they, too, were fast. They swam like 
wriggling lightning, slid into hollow rotten logs 
and weren’t there when you ripped the logs apart. 

It was getting dark, and there was a weakness 
upon him that made it excruciating pain for him 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



102 



to take another step. He’d been hungry a hundred 
years, but this was worst of all. But it was not 
a weakness that made him stop ; it was something 
that drove him on, made him keep going when 
every step was effort. 

High in a big tree, something that clung to a 
branch was going "Yahh! Yahh! Yahh!” mock- 
ing and monotonously, and a broken piece of 
branch arced down and bounded harmlessly off his 
heavy hide. Lese majesty. For a moment he was 
stronger in the hope that something was going to 
fight. 

He whirled and snapped at the branch that had 
struck him, and it splintered. And then he stood 
at fullest height and bellowed challenge at the 
little thing in the big tree, high overhead. But 
it would not come down; it went "Yahh! Yahh! 
Yahh!” and stayed there in cowardly safety. 

He threw himself mightily against the trunk of 
the tree, but it was five feet thick, and he could 
not even shake it. He circled twice, roaring his 
bafflement, and then blundered on into gathering 
darkness. 

Ahead of him, in one of the saplings, was a little 
gray thing, a ball of fur. He snapped at it, but 
it wasn’t there when he closed his jaws upon the 
wood. He saw only a dim gray streak as it hit 
the ground and ran, gone in shadows before he 
could take a single step. 

Darker, and though he could see dimly in the 
woods, he could see more clearly when he came 
to the moonlit plain. Still driven on. There was 
something to his left, something small and alive 
sitting on haunches on a patch of barren soil. He 
wheeled to run toward it. It didn’t move until he 
was almost there; then with the suddenness of 
lightning it popped down a hole and vanished. 

His footsteps were slower after that, his muscles 
responded sluggishly. 

THE 



At dawn he came to the stream. 

It was effort for him to reach it, but he got 
there and lowered his great head to drink, and 
drank deeply. The gnawing pain in his stomach 
rose, a moment, to crescendo, and then dulled. 
He drank more. 

And slowly, ponderously, he sank down to the 
muddy soil. He didn’t fall, but his legs gave way 
gradually, and he lay there, the rising sun in his 
eyes, unable to move. The pain that had been 
in his stomach was all over him now, but dulled, 
more an aching weakness than an agony. 

The sun rose high overhead and sank slowly. 

He could see but dimly now, and there were 
winged things that circled overhead. Things that 
swept the sky with lazy, cowardly circles. They 
were food, but they wouldn’t come down and 
fight. 

And when it got dark enough, there were other 
things that came. There was a circle of eyes two 
feet off the ground, and an excited yapping now 
and then, and a howl. Little things, food that 
wouldn’t fight and be eaten. The kind of life that 
gave you the run-around. 

Circle of eyes. Wings against the moonlit sky. 

Food all about him, but fleet food that ran away 
on flashing legs the minute it saw or heard, and 
that had eyes and ears too sharp ever to fail to 
see or hear. The fast little things that ran and 
wouldn't fight. 

He lay with his head almost at the water’s edge. 
At dawn when the red sun was again in his eyes, 
he managed to drag his mighty bulk a foot for- 
ward so he could drink again. He drank deeply, 
and a convulsive shudder ran through him and 
then he lay very quietly with his head in the 
water. 

And the winged things overhead circled slowly 
down. 

END. 



m TIMES TD COME 



A number of kind friends pointed out our 
slight slip on the crediting of the July cover. 
Quite right; it was not done by Rogers — but we 
all make mistakes, and “Cover by Rogers” has 
been a pretty steady thing for Astounding now. 
But Rogers is no longer doing covers — he’s in the 
Canadian army. William Timmins did this 
month’s cover; the next will be done by von 
Munchhausen — which is not a pen name, or, rather, 
brush name. Furthermore, it’s something that 
we’ve been getting requests for — an astronomical 
cover. And, finally, it’s one of the best astronomi- 
cals we’ve had, I think. It’s an illustration for 
Lester del Rey’s lead story, "Lunal Landing,” 
from which you can gather the general nature of 
the scene. 



Scheduled for nes«t issue, too, is one yarn by a 
newcomer — George O. Smith, and one by an old 
old-timer who hasn’t been around for, lo, these 
many moons. Murray Leinster’s back at last, 
with a short this time — “The Wabbler.” But I’m 
hoping to get considerably more material from 
him now, as he’s in a position at last to do some 
more work for us. A. E. von Vogt has his “Second 
Solution," a unique sort of follow-up on the Ezwai 
story “Co-operate or Else” which is not a sequel, 
but an excellent parallel, though wholly different 
story. It’s an unusual way of presenting an idea, 
with a sound underlying thesis, and a good yarn 
to put it over. 



The Editor. 




American must read to keep up with current trends 
in air war. Get your copy now — only 25c at all news- 
stands (30c in Canada.) If your dealer cannot sup- 
ply you, fill out the coupon. 



D 

I IEAD about it in October AIR PROGRESS. 



And there are many other timely, vital articles on 
the following subjects: camouflage, meteorology, the 
spy menace in South America, aviation censorship, 
jobs in the air corps, navy training, and others! 



Features cover: exclusive cutaway drawings, four 
pages of color photos of modern aircraft, sections on 
new equipment, new aviation books, and the activity 
in various aircraft factories. 

Pictorial features: blimps in wartime, air schools, fer- 
rying bombers to England, superchargers, coaxial 
props, and American aircraft in action in various 
theaters of the war. 



AIR PROGRESS 

79 SEVENTH AVENUE. NEW YORK CITY 

Inclosed is a quarter (thirty cents in Canada). Kindly 
send me my copy of the new October AIR PROGRESS. 



Here's your nows of the present and predictions of 
the future! AIR PROGRESS is the magazine every 



City... 



Stato 



104 




BRASS TACKS 



It’s too late already. The ideas are being used or 
developed for use right now! About one third 
of science-fiction gadgets have already had the 
"fiction” taken off! 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

The secondhand bookstore was like any of a 
dozen I have seen, but the proprietor was differ- 
ent. He was tall — a full six feet — and thin. His 
face was narrow, his features classical and well 
defined. Age had furrowed and darkened his 
skin, but failed to bow his shoulders or cloud his 
eye. He told me to look around and help myself. 

I like to browse around in bookstores, and I 
got so interested reading books that I had no 
intention of buying that I scarcely noticed when 
another customer wandered in. Not, that is, until 
the proprietor engaged him in conversation. 

They talked about the war, plans for “winning 
the peace,” and Vice President Wallace’s recent 
talk at the Free World Association. 

Then the proprietor cleared his throat and said, 
“Lots of people laugh at me for this, but we’ll 
have another war in another twenty years. Oh, 
sure, we’ll win this war, but it won’t last. 

“And why?” he went on. "The German people 
will still be smarting from the defeat of the last 
war, and then they’ll want revenge for this one, 
too. Of course, we’ll disarm them and try to keep 
them under control. 

"Some people laugh at me for this,” he repeated, 
and he paused, his eyes on the dusky shelves of his 
store with the dreamy gaze of a prophet. Then 
he placed his hand on a pile of old magazines. 
“Science-fiction is not true,” he continued. “At 
the best it’s only a guess at what may be true 
some day. But you can bet on this: After this 



war the Germans will buy all they can get of 
these magazines. They will give them to their 
scientists and say, ’Here! The democracies have 
provided the ideas; now you make the machines.’” 

For some time I had only been pretending to 
read. At this point I closed the book completely, 
and said to myself, "The first thing you’re going 
to do tonight is write a letter about this to Mr. 
Campbell.” But actually the first thing I did was 
to read the back copy of Astounding I had bought 
before leaving the store. 

If I had my life to live over, I would start read- 
ing science-fiction fifteen years earlier. It seems 
that other people have the same idea and buy up 
all the back issues before I can get to them. I was 
lucky enough to get a mag from 1939, the one with 
the last installment of “One Against the Legion.” 
I enjoyed this — as well as the other stories and 
articles— but couldn’t help but think what an 
excellent story it would make for E. E. Smith to 
have written. 

I have in my scrapbook a clipping about rocket 
weapons already in use in this war. Well? Let 
the scientists once get started and science-fiction 
has a whole library of ideas, descriptions, and 
even pictures to aid in the development of almost 
anything. Maybe the Germans will try to make 
use of this material in preparing to conquer the 
world again. But I bet something else. I bet 
that the country that has led in thinking up all 
these ideas won’t be the last to make practical 
use of them. By the time she has built the war 
machine of 1960 she might find that we have 
learned enough about producing such things to 
be able to turn ourselves into a war machine over- 
night. — Rosella Rands, 304 D Street, N. E., Wash- 
ington, D. C. 



BRASS TACKS 



I’m trying to tend that way now — but it takes time 
to develop methods of writing that give good 
science-fiction without overloading the science. 
Dear Editor: 

I read constantly, and feel that I can say with- 
out implicating myself that I am a veteran in 
the field of science-fiction. 

There are thousands of us out here who sit 
quietly and say nothing to the sort of stuff we 
are sometimes forced to read, if we are interested 
in science-fiction. We let other people choose our 
authors, select our stories, et cetera. I can no 
longer contain my indignation. At the risk of 
being called a radical, a crank or a crackpot, at 
the risk of deflating the ego of some of our best 
illiterate minds — commonly referred to as authors 
— I would like to state MY opinions. 

FIRST: Every time an author dreams up a 

theory on sunspots, cosmic rays, or why, in the 
final analysis, there is no solidarity — including 
their theory — does he have to contaminate good 
reading material by filling page after page with 
DETAILED EXPLANATIONS? Not that I 
haven’t an imagination, or that I don't want an 
explanation, but, PLEASE, does the author have 
to convince himself by going to such an extent? 

SECOND: Why not give us something differ- 
ent occasionally? The best story I’ve read in any 
of the current issues was Van Vogt's “Asylum." 
Perhaps I’m contradicting myself on a point here, 
by liking his story, but I feel the general make-up, 
the atmosphere, the not bringing out of so many 
technical details, were points raising his story 
far above any I've read recently. 

Please don’t get the impression that I’m con- 
demning this magazine; on the contrary I find it 
in some instances far better than a few others I’ve 
read, but in their case I would not think of lower- 
ing myself to the extent of corresponding with 
them. — Earl C. Smith, 1006 Fifteenth Street, 
Corpus Christi, Texas. 



We slipped — sorry. That July Bag cover was done 
by Charles de Feo. 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

First off, a plea asking you to give credit where 
credit is due. In the June issue, of Astounding 
Science-Fiction you stated definitely that Rogers 
would not do the J uly cover. And what do I find 
at the bottom of the contents? “Cover by Rogers.” 
Let’s be consistent. 

I notice an increasing trend in Astounding to 
take up themes not so far in the future as before. 
I like this idea a great deal, because in such stories 
the characters are more interesting for the simple 
reason that we know more about them. It also 
does away with the long introduction, thus leav- 
ing more room for plot. Lester del Rey’s little 



10S 

yam seems to have come from a certain classical 
myth, but that made it none the less interesting. 

You have chosen a few stories which employ 
complicated scientific themes which are hard for 
me, and I'm sure for others, to grasp. Be careful 
about this. 

Analytical Notes — July Astounding; 

1. “Tools" — Simak 

This is a wonderfully written story that kept me 
reading every word right up to the finish. This 
is the best tribute I know, because I usually put 
down the magazine a dozen times before finishing 
a story. 

2. “Penance Cruise” — Reed 

This is the kind of thing Astounding needs 
more of — humor. Very good plot, too. 

3. “The Contraband Cow” — de Camp 

It has some pretty nice ideas, but it’s just run- 
of-the-mill. 

4. “Secret Unattainable” — Van Vogt 

New and revolutionary is the idea of hyper- 
space travel. It does away with spaceships. 

5. “Brimstone Bill” — Jameson 

Certainly not the best from this author. 

6. “Space Can” — Hubbard 

7. “Collision Orbit" — Stewart 

After all, he’s a new author. 

My favorite artist is Kramer. Tell Orban for me 
that stars do not actually have five points. They 
would be more artistic if they were mere blurs. 
You need good old Cartier back again. Where is 
he now, by the way? — Virgil Utter, Jr., 1323 
Twelfth Street, Modesto, California. 

Highly improbable Universe, at that. 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

Hey. I thought Probability Zero was supposed 
to consist of impossibilities. Yet in the very first 
one you give us something which you can by no 
means prove impossible. For if you maintain that 
it is impossible for a person to be his own father 
then you are going under the supposition that a 
closed cycle in time is impossible. 

Which is denying one of the three possibilities 
of the existence of the Universe: (1) The Uni- 
verse was created from nothing at a definite time. 

(2) The Universe has been in existence for an 
infinite time and will continue for an infinite time. 

(3) The Universe consists of a closed cycle and 
therefore was never originally created. 

Each of these three possibilities is impossible 
according to our physical laws, and yet one of 
them must be true, for I think, and therefore I 
exist. 

The Universe belongs in Probability Zero, for it 
cannot exist according to our physical laws. — 
Milton A. Rothman, 2113 N. Franklin Street, 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 



106 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Well, you wouldn’t believe a Nazi claim, would 
you? 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

I am pleased to observe that the admirable Mr. 
van Vogt has not been fooled by the “assassina- 
tion” of Reinhart Heydrich. I quote from his 
“Secret Unobtainable,” page 15: 

“ — handsome, ruthless Heydrich — who, now that 
the notorious Himmler is Minister of Interior, has 
succeeded his former master as head of the 
Gestapo.” 

It is a trifle difficult to establish from internal 
evidence the future date from which this narrative 
of the Gestapo file Secret Six has been communi- 
cated to us; but it is clear that that future will 
bring justification to those of us who believe that 
the so-called assassination, so clumsily and con- 
tradictorily described in the official dispatches, 
was a frame-up designed (a) to provide a shadow 
of justification for new and unheard-of measures 
of repression in Czechoslovakia, (b) to cast partial 
blame for these measures on the British and 
thereby strain Anglo-Czech relations, and (c) to 
remove the Gestapo’s most valuable man from the 
inconvenient limelight and allow him to continue 
his hangman’s holiday in sub-rosa safety. 

Readers who considered this just one more 
instance of how history can play hob with what’s 
been already set up in type, have simply under- 
estimated the accuracy of Mr. van Vogt’s percep- 
tion of the future. — Anthony Boucher, 2805 
Ellsworth Street, Berkeley, California. 



"Tools?" won that race — 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

You have a habit of putting out extra-good July 
issues ; this is no exception. Rating the yarns for 
the Analytical Lab would be futile until the maga- 
zine has “cooled” for a few months; at any rate, 
"Collision Orbit” and “Tools” seem to be racing 
for first place, if that helps matters any. 

As for the Probability Zero: 

1. “Eat, Drink and Be Wary.” Boy, what a 
yarn! What a yarn! 

2. “De Gustibus.” 

3. “The Floater.” 

4. “Qwerty of Hrothgar.” 

5. All the rest; they’re just about equal, and 
hair-splitting at this point would be rather futile. 

Richardson’s article of last December, “Inside 
Out Matter,” seems to have been the inspiration 
for “Collision Orbit.” I wouldn’t be at all sur- 
prised if some alert author should lay the setting 
of a story near the binary RW Tauri, as ably 
pictured by Richardson, in the near future. 

And while we’re in that vein — de Camp is proba- 
bly rather disappointed. So far, nobody has yet 



written a fantasy or S-F epic about Willy Ley’s 
"Dragon of the Ishtar Gate,” as described by Ley 
in “The Lungfish and the Unicorn,” and reviewed 
by de Camp in Astounding. — Paul Carter, 156 S. 
University Street, Blackfoot, Idaho. 



Well, lack of science knowledge ought to be no 

handicap in writing for Probability Zero. 

Dear Sir: 

Read my first copy of Astounding recently — the 
July issue — and would be glad to help you make 
out the Analytical Laboratory, et cetera, by my 
vote. 

Stories: 

1. “Tools” — Simak 

2. "Brimstone Bill” — Jameson 

3. “Collision Orbit” — Stewart 

4. “The Contraband Cow” — de Camp 

5. “Space Can" — Hubbard 

6. “Secret Unattainable” — Van Vogt 

7. “Penance Cruise” — Reed 

I was first introduced to science-fiction a couple 
of months ago, and was agreeably surprised to find 
Astounding the best of them all. Every one of 
those seven stories was really top-flight. Your 
departments are good, too. The editorial was 
really wonderful, something different from run- 
of-the-mill editorials. I liked the article for its 
authenticity, but it didn’t really seem to mean 
much, I’m afraid. The Probability Zero depart- 
ment was really refreshing and new. I’m afraid I 
don’t really know enough about science-fiction to 
judge these for you, but I am perfectly willing, if 
it will help, to give the first three in the order of 
my liking: 

1. "The Floater” — Thomas 

2. “De Gustibus” — Hale 

3. “Eat, Drink and Be Wary” — Bradbury 

Let me say in passing that all of these were 

swell. The large format is very good-looking, too. 
— William H. T’ung, Middlebury College, Middle- 
bury, Vermont. 



He just doesn’t like anything about Nazis. And — 
sorry — our Asimov, who was, he said, the only 
Asimov of military age not fighting Nazis, is no 
longer in that status. He’s working for Uncle 
Sam now — and not writing. 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

A. E. van Vogt’s story in the July Astounding, 
“Secret Unattainable,” was not up to his usually 
fairly high standard. This was not due primarily 
to the method utilized in its construction, but to 
the fact that the plot was laid in Germany and 
concerned the Nazi party. I simply could not 



BRASS TACKS 



107 



enjoy this story, in the scientific-fiction sense, with 
the words “Gestapo,” “Reich,” “Himmler,” et 
cetera, following each other in rapid succession. 
The construction was only the final cincher, assur- 
ing the complete failure of the effort. I admit 
that the idea for the yarn was good; Van Vogt 
merely failed in writing it up. I rank this in last 
— seventh — place. 

“Collision Orbit” was the best tale in the issue. 
Will Stewart — a new author or just a new name 
for an old author? Anyway, it was exactly one 
of the types of stories I prefer. And speaking of 
my preferences — Asimov is one of them. He is 
consistently your best author, far excelling either 
Heinlein or E. E. Smith — and that by about one 
thousand percent. 

The remaining five novelettes and shorts stack 
up this way: Sixth — “Space Can"; fifth — “Pen- 

ance Cruise"; fourth — “Tools"; third — “Brim- 
stone Bill”; and second — “The Contraband Cow." 

Up to the July number Astounding had been 
hitting a pace that far surpassed all of its con- 
temporaries; but now, and I regret having to say 
this, you have brought it to a new low. Your 
editorial is of its usual high value, your depart- 
ments are excellent, and the article is of a high 
caliber. The stories are simply not up to par. 
This strikes me as being just one of those things; 
next time things will probably be running in high 
gear again. At least I hope so. 

Please hurry the next “episode" in Isaac Asi- 
mov's stirring series. 

In the Probability Zero contest, I rate the yarns 
as follows: (1) "The Strange Case of the Missing 
Hero"; (2) “The Qwerty of Hrothgar"; and (3) 
“That Mysterious Bomb Raid.” — Edward C. Con- 
nor, 929 Butler Street, Peoria, Illinois. 



This fellow who thinks Earth is so darned friendly 
has never tried fighting bugs, beetles and dis- 
ease, I guess. 

Dear Mr. Campbell: 

My file of Astounding goes back to September, 
'37, beginning of “Galactic Patrol,” and I can 
truthfully say that each year has seen a noticeable 



improvement in our mag. My favorite — I use the 
singular because of the unity-of-outlook of the 
three masters — is the mighty Heinlein-MacDon- 
ald-Hubbard triumvirate. I think Dr. Smith’s 
critics have jumped on the old master with undue 
severity on the basis of one letdown. It is per- 
fectly true that we had more coming from the 
author of the epics of the past than a mad Arisian 
and a new work-from-within stratagem, but let’s 
remember Van Vogt’s resurgence from the 
mediocrity of “Vault of the Beast" to his master- 
pieces in “Sian!” and "Asylum." Please, PLEASE, 
give us more Smith when the doctor is ready. 
Maybe you can get some of his stuff on “Storm" 
Cloud, the vortex blaster. 

There seems to be one flaw which has grown 
worse rather than better as time goes on. I speak 
of the feeble endings of most of your serials and 
many of your shorts. My idea of a perfect ending 
is certainly inadequate, but I think that the best I 
have seen is the one from “Uncertainty.” The 
suspicion has been growing that perhaps you have 
been getting work on assignments, and the end- 
ings have had to be rushed through. The ending 
of “Beyond This Horizon” is a case in point. This 
story has a structure worthy of three serial install- 
ments, possibly four, but it ends abruptly, unsatis- 
fyingly, just when the full background has been 
painted in and the story has attained momentum. 
I might add here that science-fiction stories which 
place their action entirely on the Earth in the 
present geological epoch lose some of their punch 
as science-fiction, in that science-fiction's main 
theme is intelligence against the rest of the Uni- 
verse and the present Earth — aside from war — is 
too friendly to human life. 

My choices for the Analytical Laboratory are 
as follows — (1) “Secret Unattainable”; too timely! 
It gives the cold shivers! (2) “The Contraband 
Cow," (3) “Tools" (2 and 3 very close), (4) “Colli- 
sion Orbit,” (5) “Brimstone Bill." The stories 
from the Probability Zero department are hard to 
rate because they are not so far from the sort 
many of your rivals run habitually, and I don’t 
think so much of the type. They go: (1) “The 
Floater,” (2) “De Gustibus," (3) “The Mysterious 
Bomb Raid," (4) “The Strange Case of the Miss- 
ing Hero.’’— James B. Dial, 5342 South Ellis Ave- 
nue, Chicago, Illinois. 



THE END. 




108 

WEAPONS AND WAR 

Continued from page 6 
zero to far above the boiling 
point. But if you’re working 
with delicate organic chemical 
reaction balances that require a 
temperature of 123° plus or 
minus not more than two de- 
grees, the ton-lot method may 
strike nasty snags. Dump the 
substances into a big vat that 
will hold a ton or so — and you 
may find the well-cooled sides 
of the vat at about 90° while 
the center of the vat goes shoot- 
ing up around 190°. 

Or the undesirable side- 
products that showed up in the 
laboratory runs of the reaction, 
where the job was done in 
batches, may prove completely 
ruinous when the useful indus- 
trial plant tries to run the reac- 
tion as a continuous cyclic 
process. 

In mechanics, parallel prob- 
lems appear. Nature ran against 
the basic one a billion or so 
years ago, and has been working 
on it ever since. Elephants 
don’t jump, and may be killed 
by a fall of twice their own 
height. Mice jump, and won't be 
damaged much by a fall of fifty 
times an elephant’s height, let 
alone their own height. The 
strength of material increases as 
the cross section, but the weight 
and the inertia goes skyrocket- 
ing upward with the volume — 
which is a cubic, third-power 
function. You can drop a three- 
inch model tank, a perfect scale 
model, ten feet with no damage 
at all. Even thirty feet won’t 
damage it. But a full-size ma- 
chine will not stand that sort of 
thing any better than the full- 
size mammal, the elephant, will 
stand the treatment the model 
mammal, mouse, will. Mechan- 
isms that work perfectly in the 
laboratory in model form com- 
pletely fail to function in full- 
scale size, when massive metal 
has skyrocketed the inertia of 
the moving parts. Practically 
speaking, model mechanisms 
made of sheet and rod and bar 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 
lead react somewhat as full-scale 
mechanisms made of the finest, 
toughest steels. Save, of course, 
that the lead model will bend 
and slump instead of breaking. 

In electrical and radio ap- 
paratus the problems encount- 
ered are equally mean, but of a 
somewhat different nature. Nor- 
mally, such laboratory apparatus 
is actually full-scale. An am- 
plifier is built using tubes and 
condensers and lead-wire of the 
size actually to be used in serv- 
ice. But pretty frequently the 
test set-up will be strung around 
a laboratory using high- 
precision potentiometers for 
determining the optimum volt- 
ages, et cetera, superquality 
laboratory type mica-insulated 
condensers for determinations of 
exactly optimum capacities, and 
precision-wound coils. Special 
parts may well be tinkered up, 
constituting a magnificent “bug- 
ger-factor" in the set-up, since a 
highly skilled technician who 
knew exactly what he wanted 
the thing to do, worked on it, 
adjusted it, reworked, modified, 
corrected and patted it on its 
back when it performed. Per- 
haps, in the process, he intro- 
duced accidentally an impurity 
that made it function. Perhaps 
his imperfect workmanship — the 
hand cannot wind fine wires on a 
grid as evenly as a machine — 
produced a nonlinear resultant 
that made the gadget perfect in- 
stead of pretty good. 

In production, those factors 
have to be licked out or balanced 
away, somehow. Too, it may be 
that the circuit is designed for 
use at ultrahigh frequencies. 
The variation in the capacity of 
a condenser with changes in 
barometric pressure can be won- 
derful and ruinous. Humidity 
changes do nasty things to leak- 
age currents inside a sensitively 
balanced amplifier. 

Licking the known basic 
science into shape takes months. 
Putting more men on the job 
speeds some projects — but many 
a metallurgical problem doesn’t 
advance any faster for more men. 



Age-hardening alloys, for in- 
stance, must needs stand at a 
given temperature for a given 
number of weeks and days. 
Then a further period of months 
at room or outdoor temperatures, 
both arctic and tropic, must be 
allowed to determine whether 
those age-hardening properties 
disappear embarrassingly. There 
is no such thing as accelerated 
tests for that sort of problem. 
Increasing temperature to has- 
ten reactions works fine on some 
things — but the reaction at high 
temperature is not what's wanted 
here. 

It takes time, and time alone 
can do it. The new weapons; 
the new mechanisms, the new 
processes, based on methods that 
are not common to the Axis and 
the United Nations, will emerge 
only gradually in the next year. 
In late 1943 and early 1944 they 
will really begin to accumulate. 
After that, the longer it goes, 
the greater will be the diverg- 
ence of knowledge reduced to 
usable — power. 

And, be it remembered, while 
a mechanism in functioning con- 
dition may fall into enemy 
hands, the greater the divergence 
of applied knowledge, the less 
the chance will be that the 
mechanism can be duplicated by 
the enemy. No amount of chemi- 
cal or physical analysis will re- 
veal the heat treatment tech- 
nique used in producing a metal, 
unless you already know the 
alloy and produce it yourself. 
The capture of a tank of 120 
octane gasoline will help very 
little in telling how it was pro- 
duced. A piece of thoroughly 
polymerized and treated plastic 
may reveal its constituents, but 
the process of getting those con- 
stituents into that particular 
combine is something else. 

Too, it's natural that the 
process grows as it goes. The 
more unshared science we have, 
the more interactions of tech- 
niques not common property 
will appear. 

The Editor. 



109 




WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



By Cle vc Cartmill 

• The accident that a new weapon killed some and mutated others pro- 
duced — the Saints, the self-appointed, selfish, self-adulating Saints, who ruled 
the world with decidedly unsaintly violence and — with flaming swords. 



Illustrated by F. Kramer 



You could shock men, I 
thought, and suffer no conse- 
quences. Men were merely 
slaves. Slaves allowed to serve 
us, to bring their produce to 



Eden, to give us their arms and 
backs and brains. 

But these were Saints, here 
in the big hall. Their massed 
auras were a blaze of blue 



against which I narrowed my 
eyes. We were Saints, with 
three hundred years of tradi- 
tional conduct behind us. 

And what I had said was not 



110 

condoned by tradition. I had 
called them men. 

They took it in silence for a 
few seconds and stared at me, 
beside the throne of the Pa- 
triarch. Then they began to 
yell, and I felt a sick shame for 
them. They lost their dignity. 

I yelled into their hubbub. 
"I invoke the rule of silence!” 
The Patriarch raised his glow- 
ing arms. Quiet fell. 

‘‘Against my will,” the Patri- 
arch said, ‘‘I command silence. 
We will hear the rest of Saint 
Hanson’s heresy.” 

That stopped me for a mo- 
ment. I loved this old Saint, as 
did we all. He was so wise, so 
helpful at all times. For the 
others here in the auditorium I 
had little feeling. They were 
Saints, as I was, but all our lives 
and deeds centered around the 
Patriarch. His white robe and 
banded turban symbolized all the 
ritual and ceremony which gov- 
erned our actions. 

He had called it heresy. So 
strong was my conditioning, so 
carefully had I been trained 
from birth, so accustomed had I 
become to accepting his verdict 
as truth, that I believed him — 
for a second or two. 

Heresy. That, if proved, was 
unforgivable. They could have 
my life for it. All of my work, 
and all of Jennings’ would have 
been wasted. I thought of our 
efforts secondarily, though; pri- 
marily, I did not want to die. 
And I knew that I could die, in 
spite of our sham and hypocrisy 
about “ascension.” 

But I couldn’t leave it at that, 
with just the accusation. A con- 
viction that I was right would 
not let me back down. Nobody, 
not even the Patriarch, should 
stop me before I presented my 
argument. 

I turned toward the Throne 
and faced him respectfully. “It 
is not heresy, your Reverence. 
It is truth. I have proof.” His 
glowing face did not change ex- 
pression. I spoke to the audi- 
ence, narrowing my eyes again 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 
before the collective glow of ' 
their auras. 

“Listen, men.” They gasped 
at this. “Yes, men you are. I, 
too. We have nothing of di- 
vinity. We are like the others, 
like the laborers who built 
Eden, from which we have en- 
slaved the entire human race. 
Oh, I know our slavery is called 
supervision and leadership. It 
is imposed in the name of good. 
But we have no right to make 
servants of men, for we are men. 
Wait,” I cautioned as several 
hands went up, “let me tell you 
the truth. We are set apart by 
our auras, but those auras are 
the result of disturbed germ 
plasma in our ancestors.” 

They refused to take this, rule 
of silence or no. They shouted 
again, and Saint Evan Wake- 
field led an angry group down 
the wide aisle. 

“Quiet!” I yelled. “Let me 
finish!” 

Surprisingly, Saint Wake- 
field checked the group he led 
and raised his long arms with 
their nimbus of blue. Quiet fell 
again. 

"Brethren,” Saint Wakefield 
said. “Saint Hanson mouths 
heresy. No doubt of it. He has 
given us cause to strip him of 
his robes and his turban. Even 
so, he deserves to be heard. But 
not here, not here; this meet- 
ing is too unwieldy.” He ad- 
dressed the Patriarch. “I sug- 
gest, your Reverence, that Saint 
Hanson meet with the High 
Council tomorrow. Perhaps 
that smaller group can restore 
his sanity. At any rate, it can 
make a comprehensive report 
with the Brethren.” 

“It is so ordered,” the Patri- 
arch said. "Go with good.” 

I watched them go, each with 
his blue radiance which even our 
desert sun could not entirely 
dim. I felt troubled, not be- 
cause they muttered among 
themselves, but because Evan 
Wakefield looked thoughtfully 
at me for a long time. We had 
clashed before, on matters of 



doctrine and procedure, and I 
knew him to be ruthless and 
clever. 

I was one voice among so 
many millions, for the whole 
world believed that we were near 
to angels, placed among men to 
lead them out of the Collapse. 
That we had so led them and 
brought order out of chaos was 
final proof, in the popular mind, 
of our divinity. 

One voice is easily silenced. 

Oh, there were scattered 
others, like Jennings, but they 
had no power, no means. I had 
the means, in my apartment, to 
demonstrate the scientific, not 
divine, origin of our auras, but 
without the consent of the 
Brethren I could do nothing. 

One voice is easily silenced. 

Presently I was alone in the 
big hall. Even the Patriarch left 
me without a word. This im- 
pressed me with the seriousness 
of my position more than any 
other event. Always the Patri- 
arch was ready with advice. But 
I had called him a man, and he 
had removed himself. 

I could use some advice. From 
Jennings? No, for I knew what 
he would say. Attack. He’d 
roar it at me. If battle is in- 
evitable, begin it yourself. Turn 
the modulator on the Council, 
wipe out their auras, and then 
tell them. That’s what Jennings 
would advise. 

But though I agreed with him 
in principle, I couldn’t do it. 
They were Saints. I was a Saint. 
My conditioning was too strong. 
I couldn’t trick them. It was 
not our way among ourselves. 
Trick men, yes. We did when 
necessary. But not each other. 

I had to play fair, and I knew 
it. I was troubled enough by 
my secrecy. I hadn’t told any- 
body, not even Jennings, that 
my modulator was finished and 
successful. Nobody knew of my 
laboratory adjoining my bed- 
room, not even Ellen. 

Perhaps, I thought, if I tell 
the Patriarch what I’ve done, he 
will advise me. That wise old 
man will know what to do. I 



was a trifle shocked at my think- 
ing of him as a man. That was 
the first time it had been in my 
thoughts. 

I hurried up the aisle and out 
on the steps. 

He was not in sight on the 
broad, sloping flight that went 
down to the river we had made. 
I went around the gleaming ad- 
ministration buildings, examin- 
ing each street that stretched, 
spokewise from this administra- 
tion center of the circular is- 
land which was the inner city. 
Saints aplenty were on the 
streets, and a few were on one 
of the bridges which connected 
us with the outer city where our 
“slaves" lived, but the high 
banded turban of the Patriarch 
was nowhere to be seen. 

I decided not to search. I 
could waste the whole day. He 
might even have taken his plane 
from the landing tower. He 
could be in Los Angeles or San 
Francisco by now, or well on his 
way to New York. Or any- 
where. Even Shanghai, where 
his mother lived. He visited her 
every few days. 

So I went to my apartment. 
I could call the Patriarch from 
there, wherever he might be. En 
route I walked alone. My fel- 
low Saints didn’t see me. They 
looked through me. I had the 
feeling that I was invisible, like 
an “ascended” Saint. I was here, 
among the others, but they 
couldn’t see me. 

Loneliness is frightening. In- 
visibility must be the height of 
loneliness. You can see. hear, 
smell, but you can’t communi- 
cate. To be stranded on some 
tiny fleck of land in the sea is 
not as bad as being ignored by 
everyone. There, you know 
what your battle is, simple sur- 
vival. But here, with eyes rest- 
ing on me briefly but blankly, 
I had a fleeting doubt of my ex- 
istence, a fleeting belief in as- 
cension. 

But a tele-technician, round- 
ing a corner, glanced at me and 
covered his eyes with a respect- 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 
ful arm as I passed. I was alive, 
then. I was in Coventry, but I 
was alive. I felt like singing 
as I turned into my apartment. 

Ellen was there, and my heart 
bounced at sight of her golden 
beauty. She was like that. 
Gold. Her green eyes were 
flecked with it, her skin a paler 
hue, and her hair an aureate hel- 
met. 

She covered her eyes with a 
pale forearm as I entered, and 
stood and bent her knee. 

“Stop that!” I said. 

She obeyed, but her eyes were 
cast down. I lifted her chin in 
my hand and looked at her. 
Presently a tremulous smile 
flickered on her broad mouth, 
and I kissed it to life. She sub- 
mitted. No more than that. A 
little flame of anger licked at 
my heart, but I said nothing. 
Plenty of time for that after we 
were married. 

“It’s nice of you to call, Ellen. 
Can I offer you anything? 
Food, drink?" 

“No, your Reverence. Thank 
you." 

“Don’t call me that, Ellen. My 
name is Robert.” 

“But I can’t!" she cried. “It’s 
familiar, and wicked." 

“How do you expect to ad- 
dress me when we’re married?” 

“With reverence, with respect, 
as a Saint should always be ad- 
dressed.” 

“A man wants intimacy, and 
friendship, and love, not rever- 
ence, from his wife.” 

“Oh, don’t call yourself a 
man!” she pleaded. “It’s — blas- 
phemy.” 

I looked at her. Her eyes 
sparkled, like ice in sunlight, 
but the sparkle was from moist- 
ness. She was near to tears. 

“Sit down, Ellen.” She did, 
on the couch. “Say, ‘Yes, Rob- 
ert.' " 

“Please,” she begged. “Let me 
tell you why I’m here, first.” 

“Say, ‘Yes, Robert.’ ” 

“Yes — Rob — Oh, I can’t! 

Let me tell you. Saint Wake- 
field—” 

“He sent you?" 



Ill 

“Yes. He asked me to dis- 
suade you in what he called 
your mad scheme. He called 
me. I came at once. My plane 
is on the roof.” 

So this was Wakefield's first 
move. It was a weak move, be- 
cause Ellen couldn’t stop me. 
I loved her. I loved her very 
much, but I wanted a wife, not 
a worshiper. 

“Go home, Ellen.” 

“Please listen to me, your 
Reverence. I don’t presume to 
question what you are doing, for 
I haven't the intelligence — ’’ 

“You’re as intelligent as I am," 
I snapped. 

She was shocked. “Oh, no I 
I am only mortal. I can die." 

“And I can die.” Her eyes 
popped, and I betrayed the 
Brethren. “You may as well 
know,” I said, "because the 
world will know soon. Saints 
do not ‘ascend.’ They die. 
There is a secret crypt. Several 
hundred are buried there. We 
are men." 

“No,” she whispered. “No." 

"Yes. Listen. Here is the 
truth. Nearly three hundred 
years ago, a new weapon was in- 
troduced into warfare. It was 
fired only once. The destruction 
was so great and terrible that 
nations by common consent out- 
lawed it, for it destroyed friend 
and foe indiscriminately. Thou- 
sands were killed within the ra- 
dius of its effect. It was silent 
death, for the gun was a ray 
gun. But listen. On the edge 
of that area of destruction, peo- 
ple were affected by that ray. 
Their germ plasm was affected 
so that male children born of 
those individuals were born with 
an aura. Do you know anything 
of genetics?” 

“No." 

“I don’t know much. My line 
is radiant frequencies, as you 
know. But I’ll give you the 
gist, as a geneticist gave it to 
be. Nature altered the germ 
plasm as a defense against the 
L ray. For some reason not 
clear even to my informant, the 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



112 

defense mechanism manifests it- 
self in males by a glow. Each 
blood cell has a luminescent nu- 
cleus, so to speak. Female chil- 
dren have the same resistance to 
the L ray, but they don’t glow. 
I don’t know why, any piore than 
I know why hemophilia passes 
through the female only. But 
there it is. That's the truth.” 

She was quiet for a moment. 
Then she quoted a phrase from 
the Codex. “ 'And in the midst 
of chaos, the Saints appeared. 
They showed the way, and peace 
once more lay on the land.’ ” 

I shook my head. I had pity 
for her, and for all the others. 
The tale of those glowing boy 
children ran through my mind, 
how ignorant, ordinary parents 
eyed the nimbus of their child 
with awe and fear. I knew. It 
had happened to me, in a sense. 

The fear was gone, by the time 
I was born. My father and 
grandfather had glowed before 
me, and they felt none of that 
first superstition. By that time, 
the Codex had been written, 
rules had been laid down, and 
the Saints ruled the world from 
their new Eden. But the ordi- 
nary citizen reflected the ancient 
awe. They flung up their arms, 
and ordinary little boys were 
afraid to play with me. 

"I wanted to play,” I said to 
Ellen, “when I was a kid. But 
I was a Saint, and set apart. 
I went to school with other lit- 
tle Saints, and we were not al- 
lowed to play. We had to learn 
so much. So many things to 
know, so little time to learn. 
We were lonely little boys. I 
knew, even then, I was like the 
others.” 

"No,” she said. She had one 
pale hand across her vivid mouth 
in a gesture of — fear? Despair? 
A little of each, perhaps. 

“And now,” I said, “I want an 
ordinary life. But belief and 
faith have made me a superman. 
That, and something else which 
I have sworn not to reveal. You 
see, Ellen, I know the whole 
shabby farce, the trickery, the 



mystery. And I am rebelling. 
They may kill me, but I’ll prove 
my point. We are merely men. 
Supermen, while you and the 
others believe. But if that be- 
lief is shattered, we are ordi- 
nary, and may find happiness.” 

“Please believe that you are 
wrong, your Reverence. Even 
if you're right, you’re wrong. 
You will destroy faith. That’s 
all we have, our faith. Take it 
away, and what will become of 
us? Have you thought of that?” 

“Yes, Ellen. Listen. Once 
upon a time a man could call his 
soul his own. He defended his 
liberty down to the last breath. 
Then a series of dictatorships 
made liberty a remembered word 
that had no meaning any more. 
Then, chaos. Then, Saints. It 
was natural that they should 
make their own dictatorship, for 
the world had been conditioned 
for five hundred years to that. 
So men are slaves again. But 
listen, Ellen. You didn’t learn 
this in school, because you are 
not a Saint, but men were happy 
once. They laughed, and they 
battled adversity with high 
hearts. Do you hear laughter 
anywhere?” 

"Why, yes. Children play 
games.” 

"For a brief period, I’ll grant 
you, children have a taste of 
laughter. But away from home, 
qnly. I’ve watched them. They 
don’t laugh in their homes. How 
could they? How can a home be 
happy when, at any time he 
chooses, any Saint can walk into 
any home in the world and take 
what he chooses, wife, child, or 
chattel?” 

"But that is his due,” she pro- 
tested. “Any such home is hon- 
ored.” 

"You may not know this word, 
Ellen, but it’s self-explanatory. 
Phooey! Here’s another. Nuts!” 

She gasped at this. I tried 
another tack. 

“Do you love me, Ellen?” 

“Naturally,” she answered. 
“You will choose me at the next 
Festival." 

“But is it me you love? Rob- 



ert Hanson? Would you love 
me if I were the boy next door, 
and not a Saint?” 

She couldn’t see it. She 
couldn’t see me, under my robe 
and turban. She just looked at 
me helplessly. 

"Go home, Ellen,” I said 
gently. “Some day, you'll see 
what I mean, maybe. I want an 
ordinary home, and ordinary 
kids. I love you as a man should 
love a woman. You are a per- 
son, I am a person. We’re 
equal.” 

On her gasp, Evan Wakefield 
entered. He shot a quick glance 
at Ellen, and apparently read 
her expression correctly. 

“You may go now,” he said 
crisply. 

“Here, wait!” I said. "She 
isn’t a piece of furniture, to be 
shoved around." 

"She is female,” he reminded 

"Yes,” I sighed. "I can’t 
break that tradition in a breath.” 
I turned to Ellen. "Thank you, 
my dear, for coming. Think over 
what I have told you.” 

She bent the knee to us both, 
and went out to the levitator. 
In a few seconds, the gong on 
my wall announced that she had 
taken off. 

Saint Wakefield sat in the big- 
gest chair, almost overflowing it. 
He folded his powerful hands 
and looked at me with an expres- 
sion of kindly concern. 

"Brother,” he said, “I'm wor- 
ried about you. I want to help.” 

“Do you want to help the 
world?” 

“Of course. Always.” 

“Then help me put an end to 
this sham and hypocrisy. I have 
the means, but I can use help.” 

He frowned. “I don’t under- 
stand,” he murmured. 

I told him what I had told El- 
len, but in more detail. 

“I think the Saints are hon- 
est in their belief,” I said. "But 
the proof of my contention lies 
in our actions. The lie about 
ascension. You know we can 
die. Then there’s the lie about 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



a Saint’s lethal wrath, our most 
carefully guarded secret.” 

‘‘Don’t speak it,” he whis- 
pered. 

I ignored this. “Each of us 
carries a ray gun in his turtjan. 
How do you suppose the people 
would feel if they knew we 
scotch rebellion or irreverence 
by touching the button on our 
robe, that it isn’t righteous 
wrath which causes them to fall 
dead?” 

“I beg you,” he said. “Stop.” 

“Why? I tell you, these 
things are proof of our mor- 
tality. Superstition and fear 
made us angels, and we believed, 
because we were children. We 
believed so strongly that we 
ascribed supernatural factors to 
events we could not otherwise 
explain. The ignorant said that 
a Saint cannot die. So we rigged 
up a secret burying place, and 
called death ascension.” 

“I’ll admit,” he said, “that we 
can't explain what is apparently 
death, but the ascension story is 
in the interest of common good. 
People would be unhappy if they 
thought we could die.” 

“And so they’re enslaved be- 
cause they think we cannot. 
They forgot the big gun by the 
time the first child was born 
with an aura. It didn’t occur to 
anybody that his parents had 
been in a restricted area when 
the gun was fired. It didn’t oc- 
cur to anybody that his parents 
were religious fanatics. The 
fact of his aura was proof 
enough of divinity. But he 
knew, the first Patriarch knew 
he was an impostor." 

Evan Wakefield’s blue eyes 
hardened. “You can be put to 
death by that statement,” he said 
grimly. 

“Not if I can back it up," I 
said. “Listen, man, I’m not 
spouting theory. I have facts. 
But one more point about the 
first Patriarch. If he didn’t 
know, then why did he study 
the L ray, why did he secrete a 
miniature gun in his turban, as 
we do today? Why did he kill 



thousands of scoffers, and call 
his weapon righteous wrath? 
Maybe he thought he was act- 
ing for the best, but his action 
proves he knew he was a fraud.” 

Wakefield got to his feet, tow- 
ered over me. “You’re insane,” 
he said. “You can’t destroy the 
very foundations of our civiliza- 
tion. Right or wrong, you can't 
destroy these.” 

“They were destroyed before,” 
I pointed out. 

“And the Saints built them 
again. Surely that's worth some- 
thing. In fact, everything.” 

“It has served its end. What 
we have now is a culture of mas- 
ter and slave. Oh, we treat them 
well enough. We must keep 
our animals healthy. But they 
can’t call their breath their own, 
because we can take it away if 
we don’t like the part in their 
hair. And we’re no better than 
they.” 

“Stop this. Saint Hanson!" 

“Like hell I'll stop it! I have 
worked with a man, a scientist, 
in collecting proof. I know that 
our auras can be destroyed by 
scientific means. If those auras 
were truly divine, nothing man- 
made could destroy them.” 

“How do you know this?” 

“I’ll show you, presently." 

"Who was this man? Jen- 
nings?” 

“No,” I lied. “I won't tell his 
name.” 

Wakefield diverged for a mo- 
ment. “Magda Jennings,” he 
said softly. “I shall choose her 
at the Festival.” 

"But she’s his wife! They’re 
very happy." 

"She’s beautiful,” he said. 

“That’s part of what I mean,” 
I said grimly. “Don't you feel 
shame at robbing a man of . . , 
of anything, regardless?” 

Maybe his bewilderment was 
honest, I don’t know. But it 
seemed honest. He stared at me. 

“But I’m a Saint,” he said. 

“All right,” I grunted. “I’ll 
show you. Come in here.” 

He followed into my bedroom. 



113 

I slid back the wall panel and 
went into my laboratory. I 
looked at the modulator with 
pride of achievement, the pride 
which comes from having made 
something with your own hands. 
It was so compact, so neat, so 
efficient. 

I took a slide from the tem- 
perature chest and slid it under 
a microscope. “Look. This 
slide has specimens of my own 
blood cells. You can see the 
glow.” 

He applied himself to the eye- 
piece. “Yes.” 

“Keep looking while I adjust 
the modulator. That glow was 
caused originally by a radiant 
frequency. It can be destroyed 
by a counter frequency which 
this machine will generate. 
Keep looking.” 

I adjusted the modulator and 
turned the rheostat. He raised 
a white face presently. 

“It vanished," he whispered. 

“I haven’t tried it on a Saint 
yet," I said. “But it will do 
the same to us. That, I contend, 
is final proof.” 

“Yes,” he said reflectively. “It 
seems to be. Well! This needs 
some thinking. How does this 
machine work?” 

I showed him the simple con- 
trols. 

I trusted him, even though I 
differed with him. He was a 
Saint. We do not trick each 
other. 

He turned it on me, wrenched 
the rheostat far over. 

My aura winked out. 

I hadn't expected this. I was 
stunned, long enough for him 
to raise the modulator high in 
both hands. Before he could 
fling it to the tile floor, I leaped 
at him. 

“You devil! You shan’t!" 

But he was so large, so much 
stronger. I did some damage, 
I suppose, but he kicked me into 
a corner, into semi-conscious- 
ness. Through a blur of pain 
I saw him smash the modulator, 
and throw the wreckage into the 
waste chute. He leaped back 



114 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



and slammed the door against 
the atomic blast which sprang 
to life and consumed my ma- 
chine. 

He looked down at me. "That 
takes care of that. I’ll see you 
at Council meeting tomorrow — 
ah, Saint!” 

My first thought after Wake- 
field left me was of what Jen- 
nings would say. He would call 
me a fool. And so I was, a 
trusting fool. I had allowed 
myself to be tricked. 

Then a sensation of naked- 
ness knifed through me. My 
aura was gone. Destroying it 
hadn’t hurt, at the time. But 
now it hurt. Never had I imag- 
ined how it would feel. 

I had thought of it many 
times, of course. But I couldn’t 
have imagined this desolation, 
this despair, this shame of facing 
men. They wouldn’t cover their 
eyes, now. They wouldn't bend 
the knee. 

Pain from the beating and 
kicking Wakefield had given me 
hardly registered in my churn- 



ing skull as I went bitterly to 
bed. Tomorrow I must face the 
Council, and that meant going 
along some of the streets in my 
new unglowing nakedness. 

And I did. I skulked the first 
few blocks, but such men as I 
saw — street laborers, techni- 
cians and shopkeepers — covered 
their eyes as if I had not 
changed. My robe and turban 
marked me as a Saint. Their 
reactions were so deeply in- 
grained that perhaps they saw 
an aura. 

I walked boldly then, and as 
I mounted the long reach of 
wide steps I felt that I had tri- 
umphed. For my condition, and 
the manner in which it was 
brought about, was proof oi mor- 
tality, proof that we were not 
divine. 

We were men, as the Council 
should see. Being wise men, 
they would end this psychologi- 
cal farce which made us slave 
owners, and all men should be 
equal again. 

I thought this with a high 
heart, and hurried. But the in- 



stant I entered the Council 
chamber, Wakefield looked at me 
in horror, pointed a quivering 
finger, and leaped to his feet. 

“Divine justice!” he said. 
“Look, brethren! God has pun- 
ished him!” 

He waited for them to look, 
but hurried on with his analysis 
and accusation. 

I blurted something — any- 
thing — but the Patriarch waved 
me to silence. Then I felt like 
crying, as I had seen men break 
into tears before sentence was 
passed on them, for it was too 
late to say anything. 

II. 

I was allowed to defend my- 
self before the Council. Oh, 
yes, I was given a chance to 
speak — after Wakefield. I don't 
know how I looked ; I know how 
I felt. 

I had knots in my stomach. I 
had a hurt somewhere in my 
throat. I had a tightness in my 
ears. I had bitterness. 

"I have nothing to say,” I told 




the Patriarch and the half- 
dozen Saints. 

“Then you admit,” the Patri- 
arch asked kindly, “that you 
spoke heresy, and God removed 
your aura as punishment?” 

What could I say? It was my 
word against Wakefield’s. I 
hadn’t told anybody of my modu- 
lator. I hadn’t showed it. Of 
course, Jennings knew I was 
working on it, but he was a man. 
His word was worth nothing 
here. Ellen knew Wakefield 
had been at my apartment, but 
she was female. 

"I admit nothing,” I said. "I 
can only threaten, and that 
seems pointless.” 

"It seems self-evident,” the 
Patriarch continued, “that your 
blasphemy has been rewarded 
justly. Here is an example for 
unbelievers.” 

Unbelievers? He had said it. 
I knew nothing of unbelievers, 
except for isolated cases such as 
Jennings and myself. Unbeliev- 
ers? What was this? 

"I suggest,” the Patriarch con- 
tinued, “that a public ceremony 
is in order. An excommunica- 
tion, so to speak. Hanson is 
now neither man nor Saint, and 
cannot live in either world. He 
must be driven out, with 
scourges.” 

The Council didn’t under- 
stand. The Patriarch explained. 

“We have no precedent, true,” 
he admitted. “Nor have we any 
previous instance of falling so 
from this estate. We shall bring 
it to the world’s attention.” 

It didn’t take long for the 
set-up. They called in all the 
Saints, massed them in the audi- 
torium. I stood again on the 
platform, but this time I was 
the only one present who had 
no aura — until the technicians 
came with telaudiview screens 
and equipment. 

The general public, of course, 
was not admitted, but the whole 
world saw the ceremony. From 
Kamchatka to Kalamazoo, from 
Capetown to Chung King, from 
Sydney to Siberia, they saw and 
heard on their telescreens. 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 

The Patriarch officiated. 

“Robert Hanson,” he said sol- 
emnly, “for twenty-eight years 
you have been a Saint. You 
blasphemed, questioned your 
own divinity, raised a doubting 
voice. And therefore, in the 
natural course of events, divine 
wrath stripped your symbol of 
office from your unworthy body. 
You have no aura. Because of 
your former estate, you are not 
a man. Because of your present 
lack, you are no longer a Saint. 
You shall be driven out, 
scourged, to a life without hope 
of salvation.” 

He addressed the screen, sol- 
emnly, his organlike voice roll- 
ing through stirring phrases. 
“Men! All men everywhere, 
hearken! This poor one, Robert 
Hanson, shall walk henceforth 
alone. No voice shall be raised 
in his defense. No hand shall 
give him aid, no heart shall 
bleed, no eyes shall see, no ears 
shall listen. He is unworthy. 
His spirit is unclean, and none 
shall make him unafraid. Let 
him scrabble for his life. Let 
him find shelter in the storm it- 
self, in the blazing sun, and let 
the night cover him with blan- 
kets of bitter cold. He is alone. 
Alone, until death shall claim 
his worthless soul and torture 
it in hell forever and forever.” 

He pulled off my turban, with- 
out checking on whether my ray 
gun was still there. He stripped 
off my robe. I stood practically 
naked before the Saints. I don’t 
suppose any greater humiliation 
exists than to be stripped be- 
fore an elaborately dressed 
group. I felt about four inches 
high, for the ceremony had now 
picked up a life of its own. Its 
sonorous rhythm, its grim sol- 
emnity, its religious simplicity 
had caught me up. 

“Out!” cried the Patriarch. 
“Drive him out!” 

They didn’t hurt me. The 
Council had flimsy little whips, 
and they just tapped my bare 
shoulders. But the symbolism 
was terrifying. 

Down the aisle I led this pro- 



115 

cession. With measured beat 
they laid the scourges across my 
back, and they chanted: “Out. 
Out. Out. Out.” 

The world watched,- for the 
scanners followed and sent their 
images across the horizons. 

Out of the temple, onto the 
steps which were packed with 
those who lived in the outer city. 
The temple door swung shut at 
my back, and I faced a long 
gantlet of grim faces. 

Somebody threw a stone. An- 
other. I don’t know why. I 
suspect smoldering resentment 
of their masters prompted it. 
Then the air was full of mis- 
siles, and I ran down the long 
steps. I was not going to let 
them kill me. Not this way, like 
a dog. 

I didn’t try to dodge. I just 
ran, blindly. Perhaps that was 
wisest. I don’t know. Stones, 
sticks, and other solid objects 
left my body welted with 
bruises, and blood. But if I had 
tried to dodge, to twist and 
weave, perhaps they’d have 
killed me. They’d have caught 
me, at any rate. As it was they 
were breathing on my neck as 
I ran across a bridge into the 
outer city into the maze of little 
streets. 

Somehow, I got away. Not 
consciously, not by shrewdness, 
because I didn’t care. I was out 
on my feet, with the voice of the 
crowd only a vague roar in my 
ears. I was not conscious of this 
dying away down another alley, 
for the roar of my blood 
drowned all other sound. I fell 
into a little lane, and crawled 
under a house. 

I don’t know what happened 
after that. 

The room where I opened my 
eyes had a familiar look. So 
did the voice that bellowed at 
me have a familiar sound. 

“Bob! They damned near did 
you in. Magda!” Jennings 
yelled. “Bring the poor devil 
some soup. Or something 
equally loathsome.” 

I rolled my eyes toward the 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



116 

voice. He was in white, strip- 
ping off rubber gloves. His 
slate-gray eyes were cold, al- 
though his massive face was 
twisted in a grin at me. 

“What was the matter with 
you?" he demanded. “You ran 
like you had a broken leg. I 
could have caught you at any 
time.” 

“Were you in that crowd?” I 
demanded. 

“Certainly. Somebody had to 
lead the fools down a blind al- 
ley. I had a hell of a time hold- 
ing them back.” 

“I suppose you accounted for 
some of these bruises, too.” 

“Nope. I missed you. Oh, 
I threw my share, but mostly I 
hit some of the other slaves.” 

Magda came in, as dark as he 
was blond. She carried a bowl 
In her slender dark hands. 

“Hello, stupid,” she said. “Get 
outside of this gupp. It’ll put 
blood in your veins." 

They salved me and fed me, 
and listened to my tale. 

“Too bad for us," Jennings 
said, “if you’re caught here. 
Maybe we’d better rub him out, 
eh, Magda?” 

“It'd be safer," she agreed. 
“How do you want to die, Bob?” 

“Smothered in kisses, no 
doubt,” Jennings answered. 
“Well, you ought to be able to 
travel." 

“Are we traveling?” 

“Hell, yes. I don't want some 
filthy Saint walking in here and 
finding you. Wakefield, for ex- 
ample.” 

I sat up on the bed. “Wake- 
field," I said. “He’ll choose you, 
Magda, at the Festival." 

Neither of them said anything. 
Jennings moved over and 
touched his wife. He touched 
her with his fingers — her blue- 
black hair, her olive face, her 
eyelids. She just stared, empty- 
eyed, at the floor. Her hands 
clenched, but she didn’t clutch at 
Jennings, she didn’t cling. 

Presently: “Drink up. Bob,” 
she said. “We’d better go.” 

“But where? You can’t hide 
from the Saints.” 



“We can,” Jennings said. “Do 
you think I’ve done nothing but 
putter since you gave me your 
ray gun to experiment on germ 
plasm? I may be a scientist, 
Bob, but I’m a man, too. I made 
my preparations. I saw the day 
coming when we should wipe 
out the bloody Saints. We’re 
ready to go to work.” 

“With one ray gun,” I asked, 
“you intend to wipe out the 
Saints? They’re immune to it.” 

“This is no place to work out 
strategy,” he snapped. “We 
haven’t time. Snap into it. 
Here’s a pair of pants. Magda, 
get him some sandals.” 

They went into action. While 
Magda went into another room 
after clothes, Jennings started 
packing laboratory equipment. 

“But how can you leave?” I 
called through the door. “If 
a patrol plane stops you, you 
have no permission to show.” 

He laughed grimly. “We're 
not going by plane. Why did 
you think I want you to wear 
sandals? I don’t give a damn 
whether you’re fashionable or 
not. But I don’t want to have to 
carry you because your feet start 
bleeding.” 

A gong sounded a mellow 
note, and Jennings came to the 
door. His eyes were slitted, his 
face grim. 

“Come here!" he whispered 
fiercely. “Hurry!" 

I leaped off the bed and ran 
to him in my bare feet. He 
grabbed one of my arms, yanked 
me to the waste chute door. 

“Crawl in there,” he whis- 
pered. 

I drew back. “I’ll be burned 
to a crisp.” 

“Don’t argue, you fool! This 
is a blind. It doesn't work. Get 
in, feet first. There are hand 
holds. Hang on till I let you 
out." 

When I was in the chute, 
hanging to short rods in utter 
darkness, I reflected that Jen- 
nings was a man you obeyed. 
•He had pushed me around since 
that day I’d met him, when he 



didn’t put an arm across his eyes 
in salute. 

He had completed his histori- 
cal research on that day, and in 
the flush of knowledge was con- 
temptuous of Saints. It was 
fortunate I had been the Saint 
he insulted. Others, like Wake- 
field, would have killed him 
without asking questions. But 
I had asked, and he had told me. 
We had become friends. The 
only friend, I thought, I had 
ever had. 

I had given him my ray gun 
for experiments on germ plasm. 
These had confirmed his theory 
that Saints were men. Men with 
an aura, yes, but men. Nature 
had provided the aura as a de- 
fense. And nature, not knowing 
that the ray gun had been out- 
lawed, continued to pass that 
defense from one generation to 
the next. 

I cursed myself a little, there 
in the darkness. I had worked 
secretly and alone, and had 
failed. One voice is so easily 
silenced. What now? 

Voices filtered through the 
pyrolite door. One belonged to 
Wakefield. 

“You are packing?” he asked. 

“To fumigate my laboratory, 
your Reverence,” Jennings an- 
swered. “Some stray substance 
came into the damned place, and 
I’ve got to clean it out before 
I can go on with my experi- 
ments.” 

“I see. Where did Magda go? 
I didn’t see her as I came in.” 

“Shopping, your Reverence. 
You know how women are.” 

“Hm-m-m, yes. Where is Rob- 
ert Hanson?" 

“I don’t know, your Rever- 
ence.” 

"Don’t lie to me, Jennings." 

“No, your Reverence.” 

“I have reason to suspect that 
you are connected with a group 
of unbelievers, Jennings. If 
anyone would shelter Hanson, 
that group would." 

“But I saw the ceremony, your 
Reverence. I obey. And I 
know nothing of unbelievers.” 

There was a long silence. 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



Wakefield finally broke it. 

"For your sake, I hope that is 
true. Hanson escaped. I can 
tell you, and all men, that he 
will be hunted down. Some man 
shelters him. That man and all 
others associated with him will 
be put to death. Do you under- 
stand?” 

There was another silence. 

Then: “Be very good to 

Magda, Jennings," Wakefield re- 
marked casually. “For I will 
choose her at the Festival.” 

This time, the silence became 
painful. 

"Did you hear me?” Wake-* 
field snapped. 

“Yes — your — Reverence.” 

“Your attitude," Wakefield 
said thoughtfully, "is not as re- 
spectful as it should be. Take 
care, man, lest I loose my wrath, 
and you die.” 

Footsteps died away, and pres- 
ently the thin note of a gong 
came to me. Footsteps came 
again, and the door was jerked 
open. Jennings didn't look at 
me. 

“Come on,” he said abstract- 
edly. 

I crawled out, brushed the 
dust of the chute from my band- 
ages. He watched, but he 
didn’t see me. His eyes were 
wide and blank. Then he came 
to with a start, and grinned. 

"How did you like our priest 
hole, Bob?” 

“Is that what you call it?” 

“It’s a prehistoric term. Came 
from England, when some fac- 
tion tried to exterminate some 
kind of religious group, called 
priests. Citizens hid them, and 
called the hiding place a priest 
hole. Magda!” he roared. 
“Where are those clothes?” 

She came in, her dark eyes 
apprehensive, fearful. She had 
clothes for me, and I slipped 
them on. She examined me when 
I was dressed, and, still with the 
faraway look, said: 

“You’re very good-looking. 
Bob. I hardly know you, with- 
out your trappings.” 

“Stop jabbering,” Jennings 
said. “I’ve got enough compe- 



tition, without your luring 
others under your spell. Help 
me, both of you. It’ll be dark 
in an hour. We’ve got to be on 
our way.” 

We slipped out, packs 
strapped to our shoulders. 
Magda was dressed like us, in 
shorts, shirt, and hat. We were 
three men, apparently, cloaked 
in the irrigation fog which the 
weather bureau was already 
blowing across the city. 

Once, a patrol plane slipped 
silently above us, and we froze 
in a shadow. It went on, and no 
voice hailed us. We marched, 
and were on the desert in a few 
hours, where there were no 
voices, except those of coyotes, 
to hail us. For a little while, 
we felt safe. 

III. 

In that air-conditioned cave in 
the Mojave Desert, I learned a 
number of things. Chief among 
these was that man will sacrifice 
whatever he has to regain lost 
freedom. 

I had heard two hints of an 
underground movement. Here 
I met its leaders. Most of them 
were from this continent, but 
they came from all over the 
world, They came by plane, for 
they could get permission. But 
they slipped in at night, stayed 
for a few hours, and proceeded 
to the destination marked on 
their pass and checked in at the 
nearest monitor’s office. 

There was Thompson, tall, la- 
conic, with one eye and hard 
hands. He was from the South, 
representing three hundred who 
chafed under the yoke of super- 
vision. 

There was Koto, the dumpy 
Mongolian whose daughter had 
been taken by a Saint for a house 
servant. 

And Billings, whose wife had 
been chosen at a Festival. 

And Donjian, who had wanted 
his son to be a scientist but had 
watched him follow a Saint to 
be a body servant. 

And Miss Blake, whose fianc6 



117 

had not seen the Saint who 
killed him for not saluting. 

And others. They slipped 
through the camouflaged cave 
entrance to hear the thrilling 
news that Saints were mortal. 
I was exhibited. They were 
friendly, though somewhat aloof, 
and they hurried away to spread 
the word. 

All this was done at night, of 
course, for patrol planes passed 
over during the day. We had 
seen them on the first day, far 
out on the horizon, circling like 
black buzzards, searching. 

“They’re looking for us,” Jen- 
nings said when he spotted the 
first. “Magda! Turn on a 
screen. Let’s see what the news 
is.” 

We adjourned to the central 
chamber, and looked at the big 
screen while each of our images 
appeared. 

“This is Robert Hanson,” the 
announcer said. “Look at him 
closely. This is the way he ap- 
peared as a Saint. And this, 
after he lost his aura for hereti- 
cal statements. All persons take 
warning. Robert Hanson is be- 
lieved to be alive. If he is shel- 
tered in any house, fed by any 
hand, or helped in any way, 
those who give him aid shall 
die.” 

Jennings and Magda appeared 
together on the screen. 

“This is Jennings and his 
woman. He did not report to 
his local monitor today. When 
his quarters were searched, they 
were found empty. But spots 
of blood and a discarded band- 
age in a secret hiding place in- 
dicated that someone had been 
wounded. It is believed that 
they may have sheltered Robert 
Hanson. The same prohibitions 
apply to them as to Robert 
Hanson. Any person giving in- 
formation of their whereabouts 
will be rewarded. If a man, he 
will receive a pass exempting 
him from reporting to any moni- 
tor for thirty days. If a female, 
she may be among the first can- 
didates offered to the Saints at 
the coming Festival.” 



118 

Magda shuddered. “That’s a 
pretty reward.” 

“Hell,” said her husband, “it 
is for most women. You're a 
little brighter, because you mar- 
ried me.” 

“Ha!” she scoffed. “A fat lot 
I learned from you, except to 
jump when you call. And that’s 
plenty.” 

“Turn off that damned screen. 
They’re showing the thing over 
again." 

As this blond giant and his 
wife bickered in this friendly 
fashion, I forgot that I was be- 
ing hunted. Nobody had ever 
spoken to me like that, and I 
missed it suddenly. All those 
years of being set apart rushed 
over me again. I wanted to be 
on terms of tender contempt 
with someone. Perhaps that 
would be possible with Ellen, 
now. 

I came back to the cave. “I’ve 
got you in trouble," I said. 
“I’m sorry.” 

“Let us worry about it, Bob. 
Magda and I knew something 
like this would happen some 
day." 

“The odds are pretty big, Jen- 
nings. We haven’t any weapons. 
Except one ray gun, to which 
the Saints are immune.” 

“We’ll find one, Bob. We’re 
as smart as they are. Smarter, 
in our specialized fields.” 

Magda stood and looked at her 
husband steadily. She was grim. 
“Listen, if you mean what I 
think you do, the deal is off. 
How are you going to find a 
weapon which will kill a Saint 
without experimenting on Bob? 
You can’t do that. I put my foot 
down, right now!” 

I gaped a little. Women didn’t 
talk like that. Oh, in banter, 
maybe. But she was serious. 

Jennings was placating, to my 
further surprise. “Of course we 
won’t experiment on him, honey. 
We need his specialized knowl- 
edge. I’ll want a little of his 
blood to see if he’s still immune 
since he lost his aura. That’s 
very important." 

“Why?” 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 

“It’ll decide whether we take 
the long or short view.” 

His voice held an ominous 
note, but he wouldn’t amplify 
any further. I was a little un- 
easy, but anxious to get into ac- 
tion. 

“Let’s do it now,” I said. “If 
those planes really were search- 
ing for you, we may not have too 
much time. Why do you think 
they were, anyway?” 

“Why else would they drift 
along so close to the earth? It'd 
be natural for ’em to look around 
out here. I’ve done a lot of work 
on the protective hereditary 
characteristics of desert life. 
That’s what got me to checking 
the Saints, in fact. One day I 
suddenly thought — ” 

"You thought?" Magda flared. 
“I was the one who thought, you 
big ape. I said suppose some- 
thing had happened a long time 
ago to ancestors of the Saints, 
and a protective mutation oc- 
curred.” 

“So you did, so you did, babe. 
Not that it matters. I ran down 
the history on more than a hun- 
dred, and knew that’s what hap- 
pened. But anyway, those 
planes are searching for us, all 
right. This country was my 
stamping ground for a long time. 
We don’t have any fires in the 
daytime. No smoke of any kind, 
and we don’t poke our heads out. 
Let's get to work. Bob.” 

We went into his laboratory, 
paneled with gloflex, gleaming 
antiseptically at a few degrees 
above zero. We put on smocks 
and gloves, after sterilizing our 
arms, and put some of my blood 
on a slide. 

Jennings took the turban gun 
from a small wall recess and ad- 
justed the nozzle so that a very 
few rays could slip through the 
neutronium screen. He held it 
near the slide, and pressed the 
activator button. 

He examined the slide, and 
looked at me thoughtfully. 

“Bob, you’ve told me several 
times that what you wanted most 
from life is to be an ordinary 



man with an ordinary home and 
ordinary kids.” 

"Well?” 

“Just how strong is that par- 
ticular selfishness?” 

I frowned and went over to 
the microscope. “Let me look." 

The luminescence was gone, as 
I knew. But the ray gun had 
not disintegrated the blood cells. 
There was no breakdown. I was 
still immune. 

I looked at Jennings. “Well?” 
"We need you, Bob. We need 
your brain, and your experience 
in radiant frequencies. So I 
want to know where you stand. 
This means that we must wipe 
out all the Saints. All.” 
“Including me?” 

"Including you.” 

“I don’t want to die, Jen- 
nings." 

He grinned. “Wasn’t thinking 
of it. What we've got to stop 
is the birth of any more Saints. 
Sterilization." 

I walked around the labora- 
tory, not really seeing the shin- 
ing instruments and equipment, 
the specimen jars. Since I had 
learned from Jennings that I 
was only a man, one thought had 
been driving me — normalcy. I 
wanted it. I wanted it more 
than I wanted to see the Saints* 
domination ended, for it was a 
personal desire. The other was 
idealistic. 

“Why should you expect me 
to help you,” I asked, “when by 
so doing I commit suicide?” 
“But you won't die,” he pro- 
tested. 

“The name of Hanson will 
die. I feel a pride in the name. 
I want it to live.” 

“It will, Bob. People will re- 
member it forever as the name 
that emancipated the human 
race." 

“A name on a plate, or a 
statue. It isn’t good enough." 
“You won’t help?” 

“I don't know what you want 
me to do.” 

He explained. A synthetic 
protection against the L ray, so 
that the underground could 
overpower the Saints on Festi- 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



119 




val day. All the Saints would 
be massed in Eden, and acces- 
sible. 

“We have equipment, time, 
and opportunity here, Bob. 
Maybe you could work out some- 
thing. Sort of the opposite of 
your modulator.” 

Even as he talked, I began 
thinking of formulas, and induc- 
tion ratios. 

“It may be possible,” I said, 
“and it seems good strategy. On 
this other business, though. 
Listen, I don’t have an aura. 
There’s no reason to suppose my 
children will have.” 

“We can’t take a chance, Bob. 
Suppose you make another 
modulator, and we remove all 
the auras, Saints and children 



alike. We’d have to wait a 
whole year before we could be 
sure that no more children would 
be born with auras. Inside a 
year, those who still weren’t 
convinced could band together. 
If the next generation glowed, 
the believers would do battle. 
We could easily have another 
collapse, and blood all over the 
streets.” 

“We could form a defense, 
too,” I said. 

“Granted. But what about 
throw-backs. Suppose a kid is 
born a hundred years from now 
who has an aura. If conditions 
at that time should be ripe for 
a renascence, the race would be 
shackled again by superstition 
and fear.” 



I wanted to be honest with 
him. I had to be. He was my 
friend. 

“I’ll tell you,” I said. "I won't 
promise anything. I want to 
think it over.” 

“But listen. Bob,” he began. 

Magda interrupted us. She 
came quickly through the door, 
alarm tensing her dark face. 

"Shh!” she cautioned. “Some- 
body’s coming through the en- 
trance.” 

“Lights?” Jennings snapped. 

“I turned them off,” she an- 
swered. 

He touched a button, and the 
laboratory was in thick darkness. 
My first reaction was a feeling 
of sadness. I couldn’t light my 
own way in the dark any more. 



120 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Jennings slipped out softly 
through the door, turban gun in 
one hand, flashlight in the other. 
We crept after him, through the 
central chamber along a tunnel 
until we could hear the rustlings 
at the entrance. We crouched 
motionless, listening. 

The sounds came nearer, as if 
a body were wriggling through 
the camouflage of sagebrush and 
mesquite. Jennings leveled 
flashlight and ray gun. 

The beam cut a flaring cone 
out of the blackness, and framed 
a head and face at the far end. 
This was an incredibly ancient 
face, with generations of wrin- 
kles all but burying its beady 
eyes. The head was as large as 
my two fists, and it was some 
seconds before we identified it. 
A huge desert terrapin. 

“I thought it was out of some 
prehistoric nightmare," Magda 
chuckled with relief. "Come on 
in, Methuselah. Welcome to our 
study club." 

“There’s your guinea pig, 
Bob," Jennings said. “You can 
experiment on him.” 

— IV. 

As the days slipped by, the 
search for us must have become 
a source of embarrassment to the 
Saints, for there was no further 
mention of it on the telaudiview 
after the first week. The search 
continued, though. The planes 
circled closer each day, drifting 
with the wind. 

We watched, now and then, 
when they landed to search a 
patch of desert brush, or one of 
the great rock monoliths which 
jutted from the desert floor. 

Our cave had been located and 
dug with cunning, but we knew 
that they would find us eventu- 
ally. So I spent long hours in 
the laboratory, and Jennings di- 
rected the movement at night, 
when one or more of its leaders 
reported for instruction and in- 
formation. 

Jennings gave them assurance 
that I didn’t share. I was not 



sanguine about my ability to 
make a shield against the turban 
guns of the Saints. But Jen- 
nings told them I would deliver, 
and pointed all effort toward 
Festival day, when the psycho- 
logical effect of an expose would 
be at a maximum. 

They brought reports of new 
converts, and all wanted to be 
in at the kill. 

Thompson, his one eye gleam- 
ing murderously, voiced their 
sentiments: "Let me get one of 
their throats in my hands is all 
I ask. That’s all. I could die 
happy, then.” 

I was present when he said 
that. I asked about it, was told 
that the unbelievers wanted to 
kill the Saints. 

"Then I’m through," I told 
Jennings and Thompson. “I’ll 
not stand for killing them.” 

Thompson glinted at me, 
struck a match for his pipe on 
Methuselah's back. "Thought 
you didn’t like us bein’ slaves, 
Hanson.” 

"I don’t." 

“Funny way to talk, then.” 

"The Saints are honest in their 
error, Thompson. They honestly 
think they’re divine. Anybody 
would. If all of us thought you, 
for instance, were a genius and 
convinced others, you’d be con- 
vinced before long. You’d be 
a superman, as I was, simply be- 
cause belief made you so. Your 
honesty would be no less simply 
because you were mistaken. I 
say they don’t die.” 

“What do you figure to do, 
put ’em in cages?” 

“No. Show them their error, 
and let them help set up some 
form of democratic government. 
Who else has enough training 
to do the job. Monitors? 
They’re slaves, like the rest of 
you.” 

“Saints won’t help,” Thomp- 
son insisted. "They like to 
grind us down too much. They 
like the best of everything, from 
women on down, and not workin’ 
for it.” 

"Make your choice,” I said. 



“Do it my way, or do it without 

“Can you do Hanson’s job?” 
Thompson asked Jennings. 

“No,” Jennings said. “No- 
body can but Bob.” 

“Then I reckon we got to," 
Thompson said regretfully. 
“The rest won’t like this. I 
don’t. Too much chance. Kill 
'em, they won’t bother any more. 
They been free enough killin’ 
us. Try not salutin’ one, see 
what happens.” 

“Make your choice." 

“Got no choice,” he said. 
“When do you figure to be 
ready?” 

I realized how tired I was. 
“I don’t know, I don’t know. 
Everything jumbles together in 
my head. I’ve made so many 
diagrams, tried so many circuits, 
I don’t know where I am.” 

“But the Festival’s only a 
week off,” Thompson said. 

Jennings gave me a keen look, 
and Magda shook her head at 
Thompson. He got to his feet, 
and Jennings walked to the en- 
trance with him. 

“I wondered," Magda said, 
"how long you’d last." 

“What do you mean? I’m all 
right. I’m just tired." 

She smiled at me. “Sure, sure. 
Just wait, though, till you see 
your surprise.” 

She wouldn’t tell me what, but 
she showed me the next night. 
She pushed Ellen ahead of her 
into the laboratory. 

“I’ll lock the door after I’m 
out,” Magda said. “If you want 
out, beat on it.” 

She disappeared, and the 
latch clicked. Ellen stood with 
her back against the wall, be- 
wilderment widening her gold- 
flecked eyes in which no recog- 
nition gleamed. 

"What . . . what do you want?” 
she whispered. "Who are you?” 
“Don't you know me, Ellen?” 
"No. No.” 

“I’m Robert Hanson.” 

She tried to shrink through 
the wall. Her lips parted to let 
in a rasping breath. She flung 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



121 



out one clawed hand, tensed the 
other against her pale throat. 
She said nothing. She stared. 

You can take an emotional 
blow. It won’t kill you. But 
sometimes you wish it would. 

"What’s the matter?" I 
growled at the open-mouthed 
girl. “I’m not going to harm 
you, you little fool.” 

She whirled and beat her fists 
against the door. “Let me out, 
let me out, let me — ” 

Magda yanked it open, pushed 
Ellen aside as she entered with 
Jennings. 

"What the — ” Magda began, 
eying us both. She broke off, 
frowned at Ellen. "What’s eat- 
ing you?’’ 

“Let me go!” Ellen said pas- 
sionately. “You wicked people! 
I didn’t want to come when the 
man wouldn’t tell me why or 
where. Oh, you’ll be punished 
for this, terribly !” 

"For what?” Magda de- 
manded. "You’re not hurt.” 

“For harboring that” — she lev- 
eled a finger at me — "that 
thing!” 

Thing? Yes, I thought, that’s 
what I was to the ordinary per- 
son. This is what the Saints had 
accomplished. Blind, unwaver- 
ing fanatics, conditioned for 
years and years to believe in 
fear and hysteria. 

You can be sick with emotion, 
too. But you don’t die. It just 
seems that way. 

“Go away,” I said. “Leave me 
alone." 

"Let me go,” Ellen cried 
again. "Let me go!” 

Magda looked at me. “I’m 
sorry, Bob.” She turned on 
Ellen. "Sometimes I am ap- 
palled. I’m not going to like 
having you in my hair. But I 
don't guess you're worth kill- 
ing.” 

“You’re not going to . . . keep 
. . . me . . . here?” Ellen faltered. 

“Not from choice, my pretty. 
Necessity.” 

“Go away,” I said again. “All 
of you.” 

My tone turned their eyes on 
me. “I’m sorry,” Magda said 



again. “I thought she’d be what 
you needed to snap you out of 
your slump.” 

“Please . . . go . . . away!” 

They went, and I looked at 
the floor for a long time. I had 
no particular thoughts. I felt 
even worse than I had before the 
High Council. 

I told myself over and over: 
she’s not worth this, she’s not 
worth this. 

I said to myself: “Are you a 
child who’s lost its candy? You 
wanted to be a man. Well, be 
one.” 

I went back to work. 
Sometime later Magda came 
in. She touched my arm. 

“Go to bed, Bob. It’s day- 
light.” 

“Leave me alone, Magda.” 
“Bob, you look awful. You’ll 
kill yourself. Please get some 
rest.” 

I sealed the small neutronium 
box. “It’s finished.” 

"Really? Will it work?" 
"Certainly!” I barked. “Where 
is Methuselah?” 

She grinned at me. “Ellen 
was what you needed, after all.” 
We placed the box on Me- 
thuselah’s broad back. Jennings 
brought the turban gun. 

“Wait!” Magda cried. “Are 
you certain it’ll work, Bob?” 
“No,” I said. “I think maybe, 
though.” 

She got a leaf of lettuce for 
Methuselah. "Here, fella. If 
you die, you’ll be happy. He 
loves it,” she said to me, “if it 
has a touch of salt." 

Jennings added his farewells. 
He patted the patterned shell. 
“So long, mascot.” 

I hadn’t seen much of the 
ugly and somehow awesome 
creature. I’d been busy. But 
the Jenningses had made a 
friend of him. 

I touched the button of the 
little box, and joined in the ex- 
clamations. For Methuselah had 
an aura, bright and blue like a 
Saint’s. 

“There’s a bona fide Patri- 
arch,” Jennings said. 



“He certainly looks legal,” 
Magda added. 

“It didn’t have that effect on 
me in the lab,” I said. “Pick it 
up, Magda, before he fires the 
turban gun.” 

She did, and had an aura. 
Methuselah’s winked out the in- 
stant she took it in her own 
hand, as did hers when she re- 
placed it. 

Magda shivered. "I don't like 
to look like a Saint in any re- 
spect.” 

“Well," I said, “let’s test.” 

Jennings aimed the gun, 
pressed the activisor. Methuse- 
lah continued to chew the let- 
tuce leaf with an appearance of 
ancient philosophical calm. 

Jennings lowered the gun. 
"It works on him. But how 
about me?” 

Magda caught a breath. 
“Don’t be a fool. Try it on me.” 

"Why you?" 

“One syllable words, pet. It 
must work on a human being, or 
we’re in the soup. If it doesn't 
work, we’ll be rooted out of 
here by guards before long. 
We’ll be put to death. At least 
you will. Me, I may be chosen 
by Evan Wakefield. I’d rather 
be dead. Besides, you’re the 
brains of this movement. Why 
risk your life when mine isn’t 
worth much? If that gadget 
doesn’t protect me, maybe it’ll 
make you mad enough to build 
something that’ll work.” 

Jennings looked at me and 
spoke quietly. "Will you go 
into the laboratory, Bob? If 
I’ve got to do this, I’d rather 
we were alone.” 

V. 

The scream knifed through 
the laboratory door, high, shrill, 
and with almost the smell of 
horror. I was at the door before 
it cut off, short, and plunged 
into the central chamber. 

Poor Jennings, I thought as 
I ran. 

But he was kneeling beside 
Ellen, sprawled on the rock 
floor. Magda stood beside him, 



122 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



the generator in her hand, glow- 
ing with the sacred blue nimbus. 
She looked up. 

“There’s nothing quite like a 
fainting woman to spoil a ten- 
der farewell," she said. 

“She’s all right,” Jennings re- 
ported. “Shock, I guess, at 
Magda’s looking like a Saint.” 

I looked down at Ellen, and 
didn’t feel much of anything. 
Oh, she was still beautiful, 
but — 

“Did it work?” I asked. 

Magda glanced at the genera- 
tor. “We haven't tried it. I 
was standing there, a tense and 
dramatic picture of lovely sacri- 
fice. Both of us in tears as he 
aimed the gun with sweating 
hands. Then this blonde split 
the welkin. Well, let’s get it 
over with.” She thought a min- 
ute. “I hate anticlimax.” 

Jennings turned away from 
Ellen, aimed the turban gun at 
Magda. “All that emotion," he 
muttered, and fired. 

He lowered the gun, grinned 
at me. “Well, let’s have some 
breakfast.” 

Magda caught a deep breath. 
“Didn’t hurt a bit. Good-by, 
Saints,” she said, throwing a 
look in the direction of Eden. 

Maybe they felt the same as 
I. I don’t know. I thought so. 
I thought their veins must have 
hummed with exultation, their 
hearts must have pounded. The 
Saints could be conquered. The 
generator nullified the effect of 
an L ray. They must have felt 
it. It was their idea. 

I looked at them. “What is 
there to eat?" 

“Most anything,” Magda said. 
“Let’s get the sleeping beauty 
conscious.” 

We tried, but Ellen did not 
respond to treatment. She re- 
mained limp and apparently 
comatose. But she was alive — 
pulse, respiration normal, a faint 
flush on her pale golden skin. 

We laid her on a couch and 
went out to the kitchen. 

Halfway through our meal, 
footsteps pounded along the tun- 
nel floor. 



“What the hell!” Jennings 
said. “Surely they know better 
than to come here in broad day- 
light, the fools." 

But the men who burst in on 
us were not members of the 
underground. They were moni- 
tors, four of them. Ellen 
pressed behind them. 

"You will come along!" the 
leader snapped. “It is the com- 
mand of the Saints." 

Ellen pushed through and 
glared at us with fanatical fury. 
“Blasphemers!” she spat. “Now 
you will be justly punished.” 
Jennings took the turban gun 
from one of his pockets. “How 
did you boys get here?" he in- 
quired pleasantly. 

“The woman waved at us from 
the ground," said the leader. 
“She will be rewarded." 

“We are stupid," Magda said, 
"leaving her alone. Well, we 
were pretty excited.” 

"I'll make you a proposition," 
Jennings said to the men. “You 
can help us, or you can die.” 
"There are only two of you,” 
the leader said with contempt. 
“We are four." 

“But I have this." Jennings 
displayed the gun. “Each Saint 
carries one in his turban. It 
isn’t divine wrath that kills men. 
It’s one of these." He smiled 
a little. “Divine wrath is a 
stream of terrene and contra- 
terrene electrons sprayed from a 
neutronium tube. Well? Don’t 
stand there with your chins 
hanging down." 

“I can’t understand," the 
leader said, “why you don’t drop 
dead. Blasphemer! The woman 
is right.” 

“The reason why I don’t drop 
dead is simple," Jennings said. 
“I’m going to repeat what I 
have said to you, but I'm going 
to repeat it to the Patriarch 
while the whole world watches. 
I won’t drop dead then, either. 
Let me tell you the reason. Stay 
where you are!” 

He roared this last as they 
moved toward him, and the thun- 
dering tones stopped them. I 



thought again: Jennings is a 
man to be obeyed. 

“Listen,” he said. “Long ago 
in an age of unrecorded events, 
men worshiped light. Sun wor- 
shipers, fire worshipers, and so 
on. Anything with radiance. 
We call that ignorance, super- 
stition. Yet we have done it 
for three hundred years, paid 
homage to ordinary men who 
were born with an aura. 
Homage, hell! In every city 
of the world, the most trivial act 
is performed accord ! «ig to rules 
enforced by one of .hese little 
ray guns. It’s time that light 
worship comes to an end, and 
we mean to end it. Listen.” 

He told them what we had ac- 
complished, what we knew, and 
what we intended to do. 

“You realize, of course,” he 
concluded, “that you can't leave 
here alive with that knowledge, 
unless you help us. We have 
only a few days left. We can’t 
let our plans be known.” 

It is doubtful if they heard 
him. It was like telling an as- 
tronomer that the world is flat. 
He knows, and he doesn’t hear 
you. Oh, he apparently listens, 
but his mind is elsewhere. They 
were like that, the monitors. 
They stood quietly, but they 
probably didn't hear him saying 
that Saints were mortal. They 
knew. 

“Now we shall go," the leader 
said. “Come." 

"Believe me,” Jennings said, 
“I’m sorry. Stand aside, Ellen.” 

She was obedient, and her eyes 
had a queer expression. They 
were thoughtful, and her hands 
were no longer clenched. She 
stood to one side, watchful but 
not alert. She looked as though 
she kept her attention vaguely 
on matters at hand but that her 
mind was preoccupied. She 
looked soft again, and the re- 
membered wave of tenderness 
rose in me again. 

The monitors suddenly leaped 
at Jennings, and one veered off 
at me. He was somewhat larger 
than I, and strong with rigid 



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124 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



training which I as a Saint had 
never had. He’d had some sleep, 
too, no doubt. 

Anyway, I went down before 
his rush, and he kicked me in 
the side before he jumped in my 
face. I twisted away, swept his 
feet from under him, and he 
got my throat in his hands. I 
tore at them, but he was strong. 

Suddenly, a sharp crack 
sounded, and a shattering tinkle. 
He fell away from me. I rolled 
free, got to my feet as he raised 
himself to one knee, and Jen- 
nings finished him. 

Ellen stood over him with the 
neck of a water bottle in her 
hand and a look of wonder on 
her face. 

“I ... I hit a man,” she said 
softly. “I hit a man!” 

‘‘And well done,” Jennings 
said heartily. "I was afraid to 
fire. Bob, for fear of getting you, 
too.” 

“Why?" I snarled. "I’m im- 
mune. You know that." 

"Damn!" he exclaimed. “I 
forgot.” 

"So you let me be nearly 
killed." 

"I’m sorry. Bob. All I thought 
about was that you had yet to 
make another modulator." 

“I’ve already made it. I had 
to, to get anywhere on a gen- 
erator.” 

Jennings grinned. “If I’d 
known that, of course, I’d have 
drilled you." 

Ellen lodked from one to an- 
other of the bodies, then at me. 
“I ... I was afraid he was going 
to ... to kill you. I’m so 
ashamed. But I couldn’t help 
myself." 

Both Jennings and Magda 
narrowed thoughtful eyes at her. 
“What’s this?” Jennings asked. 
“Have we made a convert?” 

“Take it easy," Magda coun- 
seled. “She went outside and 
hailed them.” 

“But I had to!" Ellen cried. 
“To see a woman with an aura — 
I thought I’d go mad. But now, 
after hearing the whole story — " 

“You’re convinced I was 
right?” I asked. 



“I don’t know, I don’t know,” 
she said wearily. “It’s all so 
confusing. All I know is that 
I was terribly afraid they were 
going to harm your Rev ... to 
hurt you.” 

I stifled the emotion that rose 
in me, for I remembered what 
Jennings had told me. The 
Saints must never have children. 
This girl could find a normal 
life with somebody, but not with 
me. She could become a mother 
— with somebody else. There 
were many things I could do to- 
ward building the new world we 
were going to attempt to found. 
But I couldn’t become a father. 

So I merely said, "Thank you, 
Ellen." 

She got it. She looked at me 
for a moment, then an expres- 
sion of pain flickered across her 
eyes before she dropped them. 

“Let’s get going!" Jennings 
broke in. "That plane is out 
there. Each of you get into one 
of those uniforms. We can’t 
stay here.” 

“Where can we go?" I asked. 
“We still have five days. Where 
can we hide, besides here?” 

“We're going to risk a call," 
Jennings said grimly. “We can’t 
do this job alone. As you say. 
Bob, we have five days. With 
plenty of help, how many gen- 
erators could you make?" 

“Maybe a hundred. Why?" 

“We've got to get out of here. 
We’ll go to Thompson’s.” 

I didn’t like this. “And some- 
body will notice that Thompson 
has company, and mention it to 
his monitor, who will come root- 
ing around to see what is hap- 
pening. You know what will 
happen then." 

“Oh, didn’t I tell you, Bob?" 
Jennings grinned. “You see, 
Thompson is a monitor.” 

Four persons, with laboratory 
equipment and a huge desert ter- 
rapin, crowded a patrol plane. 
But we managed it, and man- 
aged to hide high in the air until 
night began to mask the face of 
the desert twenty thousand feet 
below. 



We didn’t speak. We kept 
an eye out for other planes and 
watched a purple cloak slip 
across the earth pocked with des- 
ert hills. Watched the sun lin- 
ger, then drop regretfully out of 
sight. 

"Well," Jennings said when 
it was dark, “here goes.” 

“God help us,” Magda replied, 
“if a Saint intercepts this. 
Wakefield would come slavering 
for Ellen.” 

Ellen slipped a trembling hand 
into mine. I pressed it per- 
functorily, my attention on the 
blond giant at the controls. 

He sat in the pilot’s seat, his 
feet on Methuselah’s shell, and 
began to warm up the transmit- 
ter. As he reached for the 
power switch, he drew back sud- 
denly. 

“What am I doing?” he asked 
in disgust. “Can you women 
rig me up something that looks 
like a Saint's turban?" 

With much twisting around, 
tearing of cloth, and all the 
other activities that go into mak- 
ing a costume, Magda and Ellen 
presently contrived a reasonable 
facsimile of a turban. Jennings 
tried it on, eyed himself in a 
small, lighted mirror. 

“My, I'm handsome," he com- 
mented. "Where’s that damned 
generator?” 

The plane was dark, save for 
Jennings’ aura. When he 
pressed the generator button, I 
heard a strange, soft gurgle from 
Ellen. In the faint illumination 
of the aura I saw that she had 
not, as I expected, flung up an 
involuntary arm at sight of the 
aura. Instead, the sound she 
made was suspiciously like a 
giggle. 

“Thompson, monitor,” Jen- 
nings called into the screen. 
Over and over: "Thompson, 
monitor.” 

Several faces appeared in suc- 
cession on the screen, not in 
answer, but out of curiosity. 
They were strangers, monitors 
perhaps, but they cut out at 
sight of Jennings’ aura — after 
the appropriate salute. And one 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



125 



was Gerald Holmes, a quiet old 
Saint who was a trifle feeble- 
minded. He peered at Jennings, 
nodded, and cut out. 

Then Thompson appeared. 
His one eye widened as he rec- 
ognized Jennings, and he made 
a sardonic salute. 

“We are coming,” Jennings 
said, and broke the circuit. 

We swooped toward a little 
town at the edge of the desert, 
several hours from Eden, which 
was a faint glow against the far 
sky. With Jennings leading the 
way through the dark streets, 
we marched without mishap to 
the home headquarters of the 
one-eyed monitor. 

Our progress was slow, be- 
cause Magda insisted on bring- 
ing Methuselah with us. Jen- 
nings and I carried him by turns, 
and in turn sought Magda’s per- 
mission to discard the sixty- 
pound carapaced reptile. 

“But he’s our mascot,” she 
protested, as she had protested 
at the cave when we wanted to 
leave him behind. 

Thompson had a cellar, and 
means of sending out the word 
that we were there. I had the 
equipment set up, and soon men 
began to arrive. 

Of the next five days, 

I know very little. 

In some way, Thompson 
and his men contrived to 
hide the patrol plane, 
which we had left in a 
field, for we used it on 
the fourth day. 

In the meantime, 
though, we turned out 
generators. We slept 
practically not at all ; we 
ate between fusing con- 
nections in the genera- 
tors. 

As soon as one was fin- 
ished, it was taken away. 

I did not know at the 
time, or care, where they 
went. Those outside my 
makeshift laboratory 
were familiar with the 
whole movement, and 
knew what to do. Al- 
though I was involved in 



this to the extent that my life 
was forfeit if we failed, I 
trusted Jennings. He knew 
what he was about. 

Came the night, then, when 
Jennings came into the lab and 
halted the work. He sent my 
helpers away, and looked 
steadily at me. He was dressed 
in a replica of a Saint’s costume, 
but he had no aura. 

“This is it, Bob,” he said qui- 
etly. "The Festival’s tomorrow. 
Come on. We’ll want to be pres- 
ent.” 

“What do you intend to do? 
What’s the program?” 

“We’ve worked it out in de- 
tail, and it’s too complicated to 
explain in a moment. We’re a 
trifle pressed for time.” 

I went with him. He knew 
what was at stake. If he was 
satisfied with the plan, I had 
no questions. 

I hadn’t known, but it was 
early evening when we — Magda, 
Ellen, Jennings, and I — marched 
through the streets again. In 
that basement laboratory, I had 
lost all sense of time. As we 
marched, I was not cognizant 
of our surroundings, or any ac- 
tivity therein. I saw that Jen- 



nings’ giant frame was enhaloed 
in the sacred blue, and that oc- 
casional pedestrians saluted the 
party, but my head was still full 
of tiny wires, diagrams, and cir- 
cuits. 

We reached the plane, and 
boldly slipped into the air. We 
were safe, because the attention 
of the world was not on the 
disappearance of a patrol plane, 
which was not unprecedented. 
Nor was it on our probable 
whereabouts. 

It was on the Festival. We 
turned on the screen and 
watched elimination contests in 
London, Vienna, New York, 
Honolulu, Rio de Janeiro, and 
others of the 'five hundred key 
cities from which the winners 
would be sent to Eden on the 
morrow for the Saints to take as 
mothers of the next generation 
of rulers. 

Elimination contests they 
really were, but so masked with 
ritualistic ceremony and for- 
mality that they were impressive 
pageantry. The district chief 
monitor presided unless a Saint 
could be persuaded to officiate in 
the measurement and question- 
ing of candidates. These came 
in all sizes, colors, and degree 




126 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



of intelligence; but they had one 
characteristic in common — they 
believed. 

“As I did,” Ellen remarked, 
commenting on the protestations 
of a fiery little Roman girl. 

We watched the small screen 
for a few moments until Magda 
cut it off. 

“You don’t now?" she asked. 

Ellen considered. “I must be 
honest — with myself more than 
with you. Intellectually, I sup- 
pose, I don’t believe. I think 
it’s amusing. But there are sev- 
eral generations of belief behind 
me. I can say I think the Saints 
are merely men, but I have an 
uneasy fear that I’ll be struck 
dead for it.” 

Magda looked at me. “I 
thought you had picked a dud, 
Bob, a few days ago. I apolo- 
gize." 

Ellen had a sort of glow in 
her eyes as she looked at me, 
and the hardest thing I ever did 
was to turn to Jennings and say 
casually, “What’s up?” 

“We’re headed for Eden, my 
boy, whose flaming swords we 
no longer fear.” 

Presently we were in a field on 
the outskirts of the outer city. 
We sat quietly for a few mo- 
ments, listening to the gentle 
rain which the weather station 
had sent to these acres of cab- 
bages. Ten miles ahead, the 
shining towers of the inner city 
thrust toward the stars. 

“Bob and I will set the stage,” 
Jennings said to Magda. “You 
know what to do.” 



“If you need a quick getaway. 
I'll be there.” 

“Good-by — Robert," Ellen 

breathed. 

I smiled, nodded. I wanted to 
kiss her, but I didn’t. I fol- 
lowed Jennings. 

We started toward the city, 
and the plane slipped silently 
off in the darkness. Jennings 
and I were apparently a Saint 
and a monitor on nobody’s busi- 
ness but our own. 

The generator was strapped to 
Jennings’ skin, under the robe, 
and his blue radiance was in- 
distinguishable from the real 
thing. As we entered a street, 
he took the L-ray gun from some 
pocket and handed it to me. 

“If anybody gets suspicious, 
drop ’em," he whispered. “I 
don’t think they will, but we 
can’t take a chance now." 

“Where are we going?” 

“To your old apartment. 
That’s the safest place in town. 
We’ve had it under surveillance, 
and nobody has showed any in- 
terest in it." He chuckled. 
"I’ll give you the plan later. 
You’ll love it.” 

I trailed him a few feet, with 
the ray gun ready under my 
cloak. I forced myself not to 
think of Ellen. 

My alertness was unnecessary. 
Such few citizens as we met 
covered their eyes, and two 
women bent the knee to Jen- 
nings. He made no recognition 
of their obeisance, and led the 
way into the inner city as a 
Saint should. 



VI. 

When you have been a cer- 
tain person all your life and 
suddenly, while you are still 
young, learn that you are in 
reality someone else, adjustment 
does not come as quickly as real- 
ization. You have formed deep 
patterns of conduct, thinking, 
emotion and belief. The in- 
evitable re-formation of these 
patterns comes slowly, even 
though the knowledge of your 
former pseudonymity is stronger 
than your faith itself. 

For this reason, I felt that 
we were committing a sacrilege 
when Jennings and I strode 
down the aisle of the auditorium 
toward the Patriarch and the 
giant screen. I hadn't been af- 
fected as we moved between, 
through, and around the crowds 
which packed the inner city on 
Festival day; nor when we 
marched up the steps down 
which I had so recently plunged 
with despairing hopes of sur- 
vival in my heavy heart. But 
I was uneasy when we entered 
the auditorium. 

Few eyes in that packed and 
glowing audience noted us at 
first, for Jennings was appar- 
ently a Saint arriving late. I 
was perhaps unnoticed, or men- 
tally explained as a part of the 
ceremony to come. All eyes, all 
ears, heeded the Patriarch’s pre- 
liminary formalities. 

“ — are met here,” he was 
saying in that stirring voice, 
“to commemorate a most solemn 
occasion. For today we choose 




WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



127, 



the mothers of the next genera- 
tion of Saints to replace those 
among us who will ascend to 
their reward in the coming 
months. Those mothers will be 
the flower of womanhood, se- 
lected with care and rigidity. 
They — ” He broke off as he 
caught sight of us. 

A series of crowd images con- 
tinued to flash on the giant 
screen behind the Patriarch as 
we marched toward the stage in 
the expectant silence which 
dropped over the audience. The 
Patriarch looked at us calmly 
and without recognition. 

“Brother,” he said to Jen- 
nings, and a scanner swiveled to 
include us in the image which 
went out to the world, “you are 
late. You are — ” He paused, 
frowned. "Who are you? I do 
not recognize you.” 

Jennings was respectful, 
though unabashed. “I am Jen- 
nings, your Reverence. My com- 
panion is Robert Hanson. I 
should like to say a few words.” 

Movement in the audience 
caught my eye. Wakefield. He 
shot to his feet, touched the but- 
ton on his robe as he looked at 
us. An expression of puzzle- 
ment knitted his brows when we 
did not fall dead. 

“Kill them, you fools!” he 
said. “Kill them!" 

Several Saints, then more, 
stood and directed their turban 
guns at us. Jennings turned, 
and with impressive dignity 
waved them back into their 
seats. 

“We’re immune,” he said, “to 
your toys. Hanson because he 
is a Saint. I because he is a 
genius.” 

Wakefield refused to take this. 
He hurried into the aisle and 
rushed toward us. 

“Blasphemer!” he snarled. 
“Hanson is no Saint, nor you. 
You may be immune to our 
wrath, but not to these!” 

He flung himself at Jennings, 
glowing hands clawing toward 
Jennings’ glowing throat. They 
locked in battle. 

Jennings was large, but so was 



Wakefield. We all looked on, 
shocked to silence by this physi- 
cal combat. 

They wrenched at each other, 
hit at each other, kicked each 
other. They struggled back and 
forth in front of the stage, snarl- 
ing. Wakefield driven by his 
fury, by certainty, I suppose, 
that if he did not destroy us, 
we should destroy all Saints. 
Jennings had a greater drive — 
Magda. Here was the man who 
was going to take her from him. 

All the while, scanners trans- 
lated the scene to images on 
screens all over the world. The 
effect on various crowds was 
shown on the big screen across 
which were to parade the candi- 
dates later. 

“Stop!” the Patriarch finally 
cried. “This is a sacred place!” 

He cried too late, for Jennings 
suddenly picked Wakefield up 
in his desert-hardened hands, 
lifted him high, and flung him 
head-down to the floor. 

A sharp crack! Wakefield’s 
aura faded, died. He lay still. 
Jennings looked grimly at the 
Patriarch. 

“If I’m not mistaken,” he 
said, “I’ve just ascended a 
Saint.” He looked at the scan- 
ners, the screen. "He died as 
any of us!” he shouted. “That’s 
because he’s a man, and I can 
prove it!” He lowered his voice. 
“May I say a few words, your 
Reverence?” 

Furor. 

The Saints leaped up, cried 
out in fury, plunged down the 
aisle. We faced them. The Pa- 
triarch’s voice roared. 

“Silence! Would you foul 
your own temple?” 

This shocked them, checked 
the stampede. They returned 
to their seats, but not sheep- 
ishly, as their action warranted. 
They were sullen, and somewhat 
uneasy. 

The Patriarch looked down on 
us, a tremendous dignity on his 
lined face. “This," he said, “is 
unforgivable. Before I strike 
you down, you may have a word. 



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128 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Explain your execrable acts, if 
you can.” 

I broke in. ‘‘May I explain, 
your Reverence, to the world?" 

I felt sorry for him, for he 
was shaken. He didn’t know 
how to address me, an excom- 
municated, scourged, and hunted 
former Saint. After a few sec- 
onds of silent indecision, he 
nodded wearily and seated him- 
self on the Throne. I mounted 
the stage and spoke into a scan- 
ner. Behind me, the wide-eyed 
crowds replaced each other on 
the great reception screen. 

“I am Robert Hanson,” I said. 
‘‘I had two names. I was a Saint. 
But listen to me." 

I told them what we had dis- 
covered, what we had done. Now 
and then I shot a glance at the 
big screen, the mixture of ex- 
pressions on the faces. Some 
were horrified, some thoughtful, 
some angry. This latter group 
increased in number as I told 
them of the hoax. 

"But the Saints have been hon- 
est,” I insisted. “Most of us 
really believed in our divine ori- 
gin. We have not harmed you, 
we have merely enslaved you. 
But that slavery is not as irk- 
some nor as rigid as the military 
slavery which shackled men for 
centuries before the first boy 
child was born with an aura. 
We propose that the Saints re- 
main in nominal authority until 
governments are established, but 
that their auras be removed, 
and — ” 

“Stop!" cried the Patriarch in 
a quavering voice. “I shall not 
allow this blasphemy. If. by 



some devilish chance, you have 
contrived to make yourself im- 
mue to our wrath — ” 

I pulled the turban gun from 
under my cloak and waved it 
before the scanner. “This is 
Saintly wrath,” I said. "Each 
of us wore one in his turban. 
We pressed a button to kill and 
called it wrath. Each of these 
weapons is a miniature dupli- 
cate of that greater weapon 
which brought us into being." 

“Stop!" the Patriarch cried 
again. I turned to him. 

“I have revered you, your 
Reverence. I believed, and still 
believe, that you are honest. But 
that first Patriarch was not hon- 
est. He knew we could die, 
knew that science killed for us, 
knew that ‘ascension’ was a lie." 

“Please!” begged the Patri- 
arch. “You have made state- 
ments for which you should be 
put to death.” He faced the 
scanner. "We have ruled as 
wisely and as well as we could 
according to the Codex. This 
. . . this — Robert Hanson has 
made serious charges, so serious 
that they must be disproved here 
and now. You say” — he roared 
at me in mighty wrath — “that 
we are men, that our divine aura 
is false, caused by certain dis- 
turbances of our ancestors' germ 
plasm. Prove it!” 

I took the modulator from my 
cloak and pointed it at him. I 
turned the rheostat, and his aura 
winked out as mine had. 

A hush fell, and I was sorry. 
The old man was trembling. All 
he had ever known was de- 
stroyed. I knew that he felt 
that sensation of nakedness, for 



he shrank away from the scan- 
ner for a second. Then he 
squared his shoulders. 

“Listen to me,” he cried. “All 
men everywhere, listen!" 

The faces on the screen were 
intent, with now and then a face 
whose eyes were narrowed in 
anger. The angry were not as 
numerous as when I had spoken, 
but crowds in various parts of 
the world were liberally sprin- 
kled with them. 

The Patriarch, however, got 
no further. A commotion in 
the audience as several Saints 
leaped to their feet drew his 
attention, and scanners swung to 
cover this new development. 

"Wait!" one cried. “This 
proves nothing. They have re- 
moved your aura, your Rever- 
ence, may God forgive them. 
But is this proof that the aura 
is not God-given? It is not! 
A man may cut down a tree, and 
kill it. Does that prove that 
the tree is man-made?" 

A mutter of approval rippled 
the massed Saints, and their ex- 
pressions began to change. 
Whereas they had been shocked, 
frightened, and bewildered, they 
now smiled with smug toler- 
ance. 

Jennings faced them. “The 
analogy is not valid," he said. 
He told them again of the small 
area from which all Saints had 
stemmed. “Is that not evi- 
dence?" he cried. "But wait! 
We have further proof. Come 
in!” he cried into the screen. 

A hush fell. All eyes swiv- 
eled toward the great double 
doors which swung slowly open 



WITH FLAMING SWORDS 



129 



to admit a group of men. Men. 
Just ordinary men, but by the 
expression in their eyes, I knew 
these to be the underground. 
They sneered. 

They marched down the aisle, 
and scanners threw their images 
to the world. Watchers on the 
big screen now had no expres- 
sion save that of intent interest. 

Jennings halted the men, 
spoke to the Saints. 

“Here we have about one hun- 
dred of your slaves who have 
dared to question your right to 
rule. They enter here, knowing 
that they may be killed, but will- 
ing to die to show the world that 
Saints are merely men. Watch!” 

He waved his hand, and the 
men packed in the wide aisle 
glowed with the sacred radi- 
ance. Each pressed his hidden 
generator at the same instant, 
and the effect was startling. 

I watched the big screen, for 
in those faces we would read 
success or failure. After all, 
they were the people we had to 
convince. 

And now I saw anger. Men 
began to shout, and women — 
women I — to mouth insults. 
They saw now, in one dramatic 
instant, the generations of 
slavery to an accidental mu- 
tation. Here was proof. The 
crowds began to mill around, 
and many men slipped out of 
view with grim faces, intent on 
going somewhere. 

But the quartet of Saints re- 
fused even this evidence. 

"These are Saints!” yelled the 
spokesman above the hubbub. 
"Jennings has some way to 
blanket their aura. They are 
Saints which he has kept hid- 
den. They are not men!” 

This, too, found favor. The 
Saints were grasping at any- 
thing. 

Then a Saint yelled, “Kill 
them! They have no protection 
against our hands!” 

Jennings made another instant 
gesture. He motioned the men 
to the stage, and they poured 
onto it. We stood there, a hun- 
dred against five-to-one odds. 



“If you want a fight,” Jen- 
nings boomed, “we are ready. 
We have told you the truth. 
Look at the people. They be- 
lieve.” 

This was true. Belief was 
written on each changing screen- 
ful of faces all over the world. 

But the Saints, now proving 
themselves men in the fury of 
defeat, began to move into the 
aisle and advance toward the 
stage. 

“Wait!” commanded the Patri- 
arch, but they ignored him. 

We set ourselves. We were 
ready. 

They walked slowly, hands 
clawed at their sides. A few 
pressed their ray guns to life, 
but desisted when none of us 
fell. 

The scanners followed every 
move. 

Then a scream rang out from 
the rear. A woman's scream. 
Heads turned. A gasp went up. 
A path widened in the aisle. 
Scanners shifted. 

There was Magda — and Me- 
thuselah. 

She led him down the aisle 
with a ribbon around his ancient 
neck. On his carapace was 
strapped a generator, and he 
glowed, as did she, with a blue 
aura. 

The hall was thick with utter 
silence. 

“God given?” Jennings asked 
sarcastically. “You know that 
women do not glow, for reasons 
which we have explained. But 
say that she is a man in disguise, 
which she isn't, that leaves Me- 
thuselah. Look at him, gentle- 
men! Saint Methuselah!” 

They looked. There is an 
austere dignity about a terrapin, 
in the deliberate way in which 
he makes one slow step after 
another. They may be stupid, 
too, but like owls they have the 
wisdom of ages written in their 
puckered faces. No dignitary 
ever moved with the sure cour- 
age of Methuselah. 

The aura helped, of course. 
It gave him authority, and char- 
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A sound broke the silence. A 
strange sound which focused all 
eyes on the Patriarch. A sound 
all but forgotten by adults, si- 
lenced by centuries of supersti- 
tion. 

He laughed. 

It started as a low, bubbling 
chuckle. Then this calm old 
man who personified all we knew 
of dignity and kindness, tipped 
back his ancient head and vented 
a lusty guffaw which made him 
so lovably human that my eyes 
smarted. 

On the big screen, one group 
of startled faces followed an- 
other as the Patriarch loosed 
peal after peal of joy. He be- 
came weak with it, and groped 
toward the Throne, where he sat 
with streaming eyes. 

Then, on the screen, one man 
picked it up. He smiled, 
chuckled, and then howled with 
amusement. 

It spread. It was infectious. 
It spread across the world. Men 
laughed, women giggled, and 
small children, not knowing 
why, cavorted with glee. 

Presently, this healing emo- 
tion communicated itself to the 
hall as Magda and Methuselah 
continued their stately march 
down the aisle. A few Saints 
smiled, then others. 

But, aside from one here and 
there, the Saints did not laugh. 
They were amused, but they 
lacked the unself-consciousness 
of the Patriarch. They merely 
smiled. 

We — the cabal — waited. Pres- 
ently the Patriarch came to the 
transmitting screen again. 

“This is proof,” he said pleas- 
antly. “Are we agreed, here? 
Let’s have a show of hands.” 

You could hardly blame them 
for their reluctance. Here was 
destruction. For generations, 
Saints had ruled, and in a few 
THE 



moments the right to rule had 
been destroyed by a few men, 
a woman, and a desert terrapin. 

But they agreed, finally. They 
wanted to know where they 
would fit into the new order 
first, but agreed after Jennings 
explained. 

I didn't hear all of that ex- 
planation. Jennings told them 
that the world must look to them 
as administrators, for they had 
been trained. They must start 
the ball rolling. 

"And it has suddenly occurred 
to me," he said, “tfiat you can 
take your places among men and 
lead ordinary lives in all re- 
spects. Your auras no longer 
have any psychological signifi- 
cance, and can be removed. But 
we are agreed, I assume, that 
future sons of yours should not 
be allowed to retain the auras 
with which they will be born?” 

He waited for their approval. 

“When we were first planning 
the coming steps,” he went on, 
“we were agreed that no Saint 
should be allowed to marry and 
have children.” 

I swung and faced him in- 
tently. 

“I was so wrapped up with 
the importance of the project," 
Jennings said, “that I didn’t see 
the obvious solution. We can 
place a modulator in every hos- 
pital, and a baby's aura can be 
removed at birth. Neither he 
nor his mother will ever know 
that he bears Saint’s blood. You 
will, therefore, not be set apart 
from other men, which would 
cause you some mental trouble. 
You—” 

I heard no more. I slipped out 
a side door, around to the main 
steps, that same flight on which 
I thought I was going to die 
not long before. 

Ellen was waiting there. 

END. 





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